What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
People are sometimes surprised to learn that I grew up in a very different tradition of church music than the one that I work and worship in today. Sunday mornings of my adolescence were shaped by Christian rock bands strumming and drumming as the congregation clapped and sang along to lyrics projected onto one of the several movie screens hanging in the sanctuary of our evangelical Baptist mega church. Though my musical and spiritual tastes have landed rather far from that tree, I’m occasionally transported back to my childhood when I come across one of the few hymns shared between the evangelical and Episcopal traditions. Often, I have found that these shared hymns have their origins in the Second Great Awakening, the 19th century religious movement made famous by camp meetings and charismatic preaching. The movement also produced many of our great American folk hymns including two that we’ll sing this Sunday.
“What Wondrous Love is This” was first published in Lynchburg, VA in 1811 in a publication verbosely titled A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use. The lyrics call upon the famous verse from John 15:13 that says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
As our Lenten journey continues toward Holy Week, I’ve found myself reflecting on the lyrics of this hymn and on the concept of sacrifice. This Lent I have decided to sacrifice my attention by giving it more freely and fully to the people that I’m with. As a person who is easily distracted, this really does not come easily. When I find myself distracted, I try to remember the words of Simone Weil who said that, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” This sentence has become somewhat of a mantra for me recently, drawing me back to focus when my mind is inclined to wander.
Brent Erstad, Director of Music and Organist
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: