I’ve been meaning to write this one for ages. The Power of the Cross is a very powerful hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend that takes us back to Good Friday and to remember how Christ “became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Oh, to see the dawn
of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
torn and beaten, then
nailed to a cross of wood.
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
took the blame, bore the wrath—
we stand forgiven at the cross.
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
The reason this post has been sitting unwritten for so long is that half of me loves this hymn and half of me finds it just too much to bear. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to see the dawn of the darkest day. I like to think I can avail of the cross of Christ whilst walking quickly by without thinking too deeply about exactly what was involved.
There is a wonderful little booklet by John Richardson, “The Eternal Cross“, reflecting on the sufferings of Christ and the place of suffering at the heart of God. He points us to John 14:8-9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and says:
Of course, these words are also comforting to the armchair theologian who looks at Jesus healing the sick or raising the dead. It is easy to see the Father there, if we have already decided that the Father is the one who always delivers when he is called upon. But the cross confronts that illusion by saying, “Look, here is also the Father. He who sees this Christ, the Christ on the cross, has also seen the Father.” Yet crucifixion is an unpalatable sight, from which human instinct turns away. Trying to look at this to see God is like trying to look at the sun. We must force ourselves into the confrontation.
And so I sing this wonderful hymn.
In my youth, at Lisburn Cathedral, we always seemed to sing Frances Havergal’s hymn “Another year is dawning” on the first Sunday of the new year. I picked it as the last hymn for Sunday 30th December – not quite in the new year, but it fitted in well with the theme of the service. Following the old Lisburn Cathedral tradition we sang it to the tune Knecht (better known as the tune for “O happy band of pilgrims“).
On Friday, one of the stalward members of Elmdon Church died, “full of years”. He had been at church the previous Sunday, as usual, as he had been for many years. The last verse of the last hymn that he sang in church was this:
Another year is dawning,
dear Master, let it be,
on earth, or else in heaven,
another year with thee.
Next up, When I was lost you came and rescued me by Kate and Miles Simmonds. This is one of the few songs that invariably causes me to hit my iPod’s “No, I want to listen to that again!” button.
When I was lost you came and rescued me;
Reached down into the pit and lifted me.
O Lord, such love:
I was as far from you as I could be.
You know all the things I’ve ever done,
But Jesus’ blood has cancelled every one.
O Lord, such grace, to qualify me as your own.
There is a new song in my mouth,
There is a deep cry in my heart,
A hymn of praise to Almighty God – hallelujah!
And now I stand firm on this Rock,
My life is hidden now with Christ in God.
The old has gone and the new has come – hallelujah!
Your love has lifted me.
Kate & Miles Simmonds
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music
It’s Psalm 40:1-3,5 but not, perhaps, in quite the musical style the Psalmist would have intended, and mixed with 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 3:3. It is very direct! Before knowing Christ, I was not merely “mistaken”; I was not simply full of unfulfilled potential. I was lost and in a pit and could not get myself out. This song pricks the bubble of my pride on that, and this is a good thing. And how can I respond to God’s initiative but by singing a new song that echos the deep cry of joy in my heart?
Notes on the song from Kate Simmonds.
There is a higher throne
than all this world has known,
where faithful ones from ev’ry tongue
will one day come.
What is it that appeals about this song? Certainly, the tune is lovely, but I think what it comes down to is the way it focuses so exclusively on heaven, on God’s throne, and on the joy and gladness and ceaseless praise that will be our lot in eternity. Is Christianity, as some like to dismiss it, just “pie in the sky when you die”? By no means – and yet we recognise that 99% of the blessings of knowing Christ are still to come.
There is a good article here exploring the biblical imagery of the song.
All glory, wisdom, pow’r,
strength, thanks, and honour are
to God our King, who reigns on high
Words and Music by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music