Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Incarnation and A Song

The incarnation of Christ and His work on the cross is the center of human history. Period. All of history and revelation prior to this miraculous condescension of God pointed to this event. All of the subsequent moments and seconds look back to that time, in groaning anticipation of the second coming and final consummation in time of the realities of that work. Christ, through the incarnation, death on the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension have purchased finally and completely all the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20) and the final victory that we await as pilgrims in these "last days."

This is the theological framework and backdrop that we often think about when we talk about the incarnation. It is the factual and real culmination of God's work. In heaven, we will be around the throne singing glory and honor to the lamb, who was slain and has bought for himself a people to praise Him forever and ever (Revelation 5:9-10). All true! All gloriously true. But no one could possibly read through the Gospels (much less the OT law and prophets) and miss the fact that the coming of the King of Kings would have social ramifications as well as theological ones. Jesus came feeding the hungry. Jesus came healing the sick. Jesus came and touched leapers - unclean, unholy, unfit. Jesus arrived and said that he came not to be served, but to serve AND give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

I have a tendency to glory in the last half of that statement. I sing with vigor and my heart wrenches in pain as I contemplate the agony of the sinless dying to ransom many, but I rarely wrench in agony and distress when I think of the multitudes of desperate, sick, and hungry around me. I have little affection for the emerging church or for the liberal protestantism in our country today, but I do see that they have one critique of the modern evangelical church that is apropos. It is our reluctance to get dirty to serve the poor. We have megachurches building massive buildings with bookstores and coffee shoppes, all in the name of Christ. Christ tells us to lay up treasures in heaven and not here on earth, but we have a decadent and misguided streak in the American evangelical church that believes that as Christians, our communities are to be established to care for ourselves and promote an ease in our lives that is found nowhere in scripture. We are commanded to remember that we are pilgrims and strangers in this land and we are awaiting, just like Abraham a far greater city that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). We are "just passing through" as the song says. Hebrews tells us that this is the reason that Abraham lived in tents all his life. He, different than other tribes at the time, never built homes and walls and fortifications because He was waiting for the heavenly city.
It is time that we make our ministries look more like Christ's own and less like Six Flags, or the local mall.

The hymn text below draws these two great truths together. Beginning with his life and ministry in the first verse, we contemplate the compassion and physical ministry of Christ. In the second, we are directed toward the great truth of Christ's accomplished work on the Cross. And in the second, with resolve, the hymnist proclaims submission to Christ by imitating his life and praying for the power and Spirit to not shrink back from carrying our cross, even if it ends in death just as Christ's did. It is a serious hymn. The refrain is a prayer for Christ, incarnate and eternal to captivate our hearts that are so prone to wander and prone to complacency toward the other half of Christ's mission.

Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2002 Thankyou Music

With a prayer You fed the hungry,
With a cry You stilled the storm;
With a look You had compassion
On the desperate and forlorn.
With a touch You healed the leper,
With a shout You raised the dead;
With a word expelled the demons,
With a blessing broke the bread.

Love incarnate, love divine,
Captivate this heart of mine
Till all I do speaks of You.

As a sheep before the shearer
You were silent in Your pain;
You endured humiliation
At the hands of those You’d made.
And as hell unleashed its fury
You were lifted on a tree,
Crying ‘Father God, forgive them,
Place their punishment on Me.’

I will feed the poor and hungry,
I will stand up for the truth;
I will take my cross and follow
To the corners of the earth.
And I ask that You so fill me
With Your peace, Your power, Your breath,
That I never love my life so much
To shrink from facing death.

This hymn is written by Stuart Townend of How Deep the Father's Love For Us and In Christ Alone fame. He lives in Brighton, England and works in the music publishing industry. He has 3 children and is involved in worship leadership at Church of Christ the King in Brighton.

To hear Stuart Townend speak about the challenges of writing Modern Hymns and Worship Music, see October 5, 2005 HERE.

For purchase a recording of this song see HERE.

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