13. In The Cross Of Christ I Glory.


Listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnSJDmc4wKo

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens. Maria Augusta von Trapp

Thus far in our blogging trek through the 30 Great Hymns of Faith, most of our focus has been on the writers of the text of these magnificent hymns. As you might know, the tunes that are so very often associated with these great hymns were written by composers who added their music to the hymn texts, many times, long after the fact. So it is with today’s hymn, In The Cross Of Christ I Glory.

The words of this great hymn were written in 1825 by Sir John Bowring. Inspired by Paul’s words to the Galatian church, (6:14) “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (ESV), Bowring (1792-1872) was a gifted man who was known worldwide as a naturalist, a linguist, a statesman, and a financier. Bowring was twice elected to the House of Parliament and was knighted in 1854. Appointed as both the British Consul and Governor of Hong Kong, it was Bowring who invented the florin, a two-shilling coin used from 1849 until 1967 throughout England. This Renaissance man could write in thirteen different languages and dialects, and at the age of 33, Bowring composed his best-known work, the lyrics to this enduring hymn:

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story,
Gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me,
Lo! It glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming,
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming,
Adds more luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story,
Gathers round its head sublime.

Amazing words, don’t you think?

But the story that truly captures my imagination today lies with the tune, RATHBUN, the music that has long been associated with Sir John Bowring’s powerful words.

It was a Sunday morning in 1849, twenty-four years after the writing of Bowring’s hymn, when choir director, Ithamar Conkey, walked out of his little Baptist church in Norwich, Connecticut in despair. That morning, only one soprano voice had shown up for the morning service, leaving him and his choir short-handed indeed as they sang their way through the selected music for the day.

Ever been there?

If you’ve ever led a ministry of some kind in almost any church setting, certainly you know the deep frustration Conkey must have felt that day when all the pieces just didn’t come together the way he’d hoped they would. The very next Sunday, the pastor preached a Lenten message on the words of Christ spoken from the Cross…“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Interestingly enough, the hymn assigned for that day was Bowring’s In The Cross Of Christ I Glory, and as Conkey later pondered on the powerful theme of this great hymn, he composed a new tune for the text. He decided to name that melody he wrote after his choir’s one faithful soprano, Mrs. Beriah S. Rathbun. And to this day, Conkey’s tune RATHBUN is the one hymnals around the world publish alongside Bowring’s original text!

My prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that Your Cross not only speaks of the great sacrifice You made for us, but it also teaches us, as followers of Christ, to remain faithful and forgiving, even when others let us down or when our plans don’t always work out the way we’d like them to. Regardless of the circumstances, Father, may I always be found at the foot of the Cross. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So what disappointments and letdowns in life are haunting me today? Like Ithamar Conkey, can I find the strength of the Cross in following in the footsteps of Jesus, letting go of those difficult feelings, thus freeing me to walk in the power of the Cross, carrying me through these trials and hardships?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?

Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others! Click here to go on to the next blog in our series.

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