Liturgy Lesson: Resurrection Sunday, 2019
by George Herbert (1633)
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand,
that thou likewise with him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.
HE. IS. RISEN!
George Herbert had it right. There is but one day, and that day ever; therefore, we sing his praise without delays! And…I should add…without ceasing. Easter Sunday is not just a holiday on the annual calendar. When Christ arose on Easter, it was the dawning of a Sun that will never set. It was the beginning of an eternal day. And just as the birds rise to sing in the morning, so shall we rise with them (and with him) and declare our unending song of praise.
HE IS RISEN!
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Text: Charles Wesley
Music: John Arnold (1749), altered from Lyrica Davidica (1708)
In every worship service, we are shaped by the songs, perhaps without even being aware of it. If habits truly form hungers, then singing does something to us—something formative. We gather not to sing about God, but to sing to him and with him. And we know that just as God worked in the lives of people 2,000 ago, He is still working today. Such is the language of this hymn. Wesley’s text is powerful by the voicing of the poetry in the present moment. Christ the Lord IS risen today!
That is the modern title of this famous hymn, originally called “Easter Hymn.” For the modern church, it has become the quintessential Resurrection Sunday hymn. It has been said that every Sunday is a “little Easter,” as we re-enact the redemptive story of our salvation. This hymn is quite special, and associated almost exclusively with Easter, but we could probably sing this hymn every Sunday, and I would not grow tired of it. It is a fervent fanfare and a fight song that includes infectious bursts of “Alleluia!” at the end of every line.
It speaks of the resurrection not just as a quaint footnote in history, but as an ongoing and living hope that we celebrate. For the actual Easter Sunday, this hymn takes us back two millennia as fellow “witnesses” to the resurrection, bringing the true story to life in a profound way. We state a truth about our new life in Christ in mostly quarter notes and then respond with a florid “Alleluia!”. Each verse contains four alleluia mini-refrains. And there are a total of five verses. You do the math. When we sing all the verses of this hymn (and we will on Sunday), we have a whopping twenty “Alleluias” to sing! Not nearly enough, but it’s a good start.
Crown Him with Many Crowns
Text: Matthew Bridges (1851)
Tune: DIADEMATA, George Elvey (1868)
Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
I think that Matthew Bridges and George Herbert would have been friends. Two-hundred years before Matthew was beating his chest with “awake my soul and sing of him who died for thee,” George Herbert was composing “Rise heart, Thy Lord is risen.” Same sentiment. Same sense of urgency. Both poets attempting a sort of spiritual CPR to revive the slumbering soul. Their desire was to resist lethargy and encourage the ecstatic praise worthy of the resurrection. George Herbert would have loved this resplendent hymn, which celebrates the risen and glorified Christ, the matchless one whose glory is unchanging. This is the “Potentate of Time” who truly is “ineffably sublime” (is there a better combination of words in all of hymnody?!).
Matthew Bridges published two small volumes of hymns, Hymns of the Heart (1847) and The Passion of Jesus (1852). “Crown Him with Many Crowns” was published in the second edition of Hymns of the Heart in 1851. Above the original stanzas was the Latin title “In capite ejus, diamemata multa…” in reference to the passage in the book of Revelation:
“The rider of the white horse, his eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems;
and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.” (Rev. 19:12)
Just the title of this hymn is a profound declaration that Christ is many things, and everything. He is Lord of all! Each individual verse of this hymn is its own coronation ceremony for aspects of Christ’s character. We are called to crown him Lord of life, Lord of love, Lord of years, Lord of peace, the Lamb upon the throne. Bridges’ original ode had eight stanzas, which have been trimmed to four for our hymnal. Were we to dedicate a verse to every facet of Christ’s prismatic prestige, the couplets would number in the thousands, and our hymnal would be too heavy to hold. Nonetheless, the verses we sing pack quite a punch, rousing us to praise the all-encompassing and all-conquering Champion over death and hell.
The tune for this hymn is a stirring and masterfully march-like melody that propels forward in each measure. It is an infectious and joyful tune that spills over with delight. I especially love the momentum in the third phrase (“Awake my soul and sing of him who died for thee”). It demands enthusiasm. The tune is named DIADEMATA, and was composed for this text by English organist and composer George J. Elvey. A prolific writer of church music, Elvey is also known for his tune ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR (“Come, ye thankful people, come”). Bridges’ text and Elvey’s tune first appeared together in the Appendix to the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868), and its future was secured. One-hundred and fifty years later, congregations across the world are still declaring the truth in song:
All Hail, Redeemer hail! For thou hast died for me;
Thy praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.