Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week Hymns: How Does the World not Cease to Spin

This year, each day of Holy Week, I will post one hymn, with a meditation or explanation afterward.  Some will be hymns I have written; others will be ones I just find meaningful.  I hope you will join me each day, at least to read the hymn if you don't want to take the time for the prose that follows it.  Today's hymn is one of mine.

How does the World not Cease to Spin?

How does the world not cease to spin
When He who charts its course is slain?
How can the powers of darkness win?
Does Heaven’s King no longer reign?
You, living God whose breath is life,
Give up Your life for those who died.
The Lord of Joy in Heaven’s light
For broken hearts in anguish cried.

They raised You, not on golden throne
But roughest wood of agony.
How can salvation’s sweetest fruit
Be grown on such a bitter tree?
No earthly nail could hold You there;
Love bound You firmly as You died
Now pierce my heart with love so deep
To draw me to Your spear-torn side.

Blood pouring from the Healer’s wounds
Should call my eyes to pour out tears
Yet evil reigns within my heart;
My laughing lips shout mocking jeers.
How is it that the lips of Truth
Instead of mine are sore and dry?
Lord, pour your grace into my heart
To love You deeper as You die.

So though the sun may cease to shine
Your hope illuminates my heart.
This love that sought me in the grave
Through life and death will not depart.
For all the sins that held me down
With You were lifted up to die.
Your victory in defeat is sure
For longer than the earth and sky.

I began writing this hymn by imagining what the disciples must have been thinking and the confusion they must have felt after the Crucifixion.  Although they probably didn’t understand that Jesus was actually God, recognizing this makes what happened even more confusing and amazing.  Since God created and sustains all things, if God dies, shouldn’t that mean the universe is destroyed?  The death of God the Son did not actually destroy the world because God did not cease existing, but I think these sorts of questions can lead to a healthy recognition that God’s plan is beyond our comprehension.  This sense of stunned admiration continues into the rest of the first stanza, which plays on the paradox of God, whose nature is the source of life and joy, giving up life and joy for people who have neither.

The next stanza also refers to a variety of concepts; the first couplet points out how Christ, who rightfully should have been king was instead executed.  I particularly like the lines, “How could salvation’s sweetest fruit be grown on such a bitter tree?” because it plays on the image of the cross as a tree and points out the paradox of sweet coming from bitter.  The last couplet in that verse intends to draw a parallel between Christians and Christ; just as He was bound by love to the cross and just as His side was pierced, our desire is to be “pierced” with love that binds us to Him.  We ask God to bring to fruition the Biblical promise that believers are given the life of Christ, even if this means that we share in His sufferings, taking up our crosses to follow Him.

In the next verse, I picture myself at the scene of the Crucifixion as part of the mocking crowd.  As I discussed yesterday, being part of the sinful human race makes us complicit in Christ’s death.  In this verse, a person’s lips represent their moral character, so I contrast the perfectly truthful lips of Christ with our mocking lips and marvel that He is being punished instead of me.  This verse, like the last one, ends with a plea for God to help us to love Him more.

The final verse becomes a bit more hopeful, looking away from Christ’s suffering toward its results.  In particular, it points out that Christ’s love endures forever and that sin itself died on the cross.  Although He appeared defeated, Jesus was actually victorious over sin, destroying its power completely.  The last line is meant to connect back to the beginning of the hymn; even if the world had been destroyed, God would still be victorious.


  1. It's hard to admit that our own voices join in the jeering, but we do. I often realize it only when I have that "Oops! Did I say that out loud?" moment, and then the sadness hits me when I realize that once again, I'm in the jeering crowd. But he forgives me yet again.

  2. "Lord, pour your grace into my heart
    To love You deeper as You die."

    What a beautiful and amazing prayer for Good Friday. Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing God's gifts through you with all of us in this way!