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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, April 24, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

Let earth’s wide circle round
in joyful notes resound:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Let air and sea and sky
from depth to height reply:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine,
my canticle divine:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this the eternal song
through all the ages long:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

“When Morning Gilds the Skies” (vv. 34) translated by Edward Caswall
Hymn 667, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

I can still hear it. My grandfather’s deep bass voice; my uncle’s pinched tenor; my dad’s wide vibrato and the congregation enveloping it all with certain adoration: “May Jesus Christ be praised!” It was this hymn that heralded so many of my childhood Sunday services. What is it in music that takes us to such heights and depths? What is it in this song, a hymn that brims with joy and bounteous praise, that runs like a stream under my daily path? I think it is the call of the hymn that proclaims the good news on which our faith rests. In this hymn faith is not a private affair. In this hymn Jesus Christ is the subject and the verb. In this hymn is the Easter proclamation that death will not have the last word, that we are called by faith to a robust, rocking, awakening joy that erupts in nothing less than our praise of Jesus Christ.

The resonant chorus of my family’s voices singing this hymn is as close as memory can be. The Baptist church in Iowa; the perfect pitch of the organ and the piano (yes, both each Sunday); the lilt and timbre of the hymn; the immense joy that could not be contained—it all stirs my heart and sings through me. Indeed, this is the eternal song that is singing through my life through all these ages long. And I suspect it is singing through your life today.

In German there is a lovely little word, Ohrwurm, which literally means “ear worm” and describes a tune or piece of music that is stuck in one’s head. If you know this song, it is likely going to be your ohrwurm today. Beneath the day’s cares and worries this hymn tune may just roam through your head and guide your heart. It is certainly doing that in mine as I write this devotion. All to the joy of knowing that I am joined on life’s way by the One who brought deep and abundant life, who looks into my life and heart with joy untold. In gratitude and grace, what a blessing!

O Jesus Christ, at the break of day may your song be on our lips. May our lives be instruments of joy. And may your abundant joy set us singing and dancing through the words “May Jesus Christ be praised!” Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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