Sunday, April 20, 2014

Passing Along the Important Messages

Since today is Easter Sunday, I'd like to talk about the importance of passing along the things that are important to your family members.  One of the best ways to do that, is to leave them little notes among your belongings, that they can rediscover long after you're gone.

In selecting the vintage Easter card images for this blog, I came across one that reminded me of some of my mother's notes to her children and grandson:

This vintage Easter card, with the title of an 18th century hymn on the front, reminded me of my mom's old hymn book.

(No, I don't think Mom "borrowed" this book from a church and then forgot to return it.  She probably bought it at a used bookstore, because there's a bookmark from a used bookstore still inside it.) 

At some point in her life, Mom began going through the old hymnal (which is now practically falling apart from use) and making notes of the songs she remembered:

It's not hard to imagine her sitting by herself with the book propped open, pencil in hand, humming the tunes she knew.

I got the old hymnal out this morning and looked up "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."  Yes, Mom knew that one!  She put a star next to the title.

If you've ever been to a traditional Protestant Easter worship service, you may have heard this hymn.  The words were written by Charles Wesley in 1739; the "al-le-lu-ias" were added later by another writer.    The tune is called "Easter Hymn;" the author of the music is unknown.    

Charles Wesley wrote more than 6000 hymns and is credited, with his brother John, as being a founder of the Methodist Church in England.  

Charles Wesley

His biographers note that Charles Wesley first trusted in Jesus Christ many years after he studied at Oxford University and became a missionary:

...To counteract the spiritual tepidity of the school, Charles formed the Holy Club, and with two or three others celebrated Communion weekly and observed a strict regimen of spiritual study. Because of the group's religious regimen, which later included early rising, Bible study, and prison ministry, members were called "methodists."

In 1735 Charles joined his brother John (they were now both ordained), to become a missionary in the colony of Georgia—John as chaplain of the rough outpost and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe.

Despite having been a member of the Holy Club, despite having served as a Christian missionary in the fledgling United States,  Charles Wesley was still uneasy with his faith. The Christianity Today website says Charles went back to England and met someone who challenged him to look at the state of his soul more deeply:  

During May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther's volume on [the New Testament book of] Galatians while ill. He wrote in his diary, "I labored, waited, and prayed to feel 'who loved me, and gave himself for me.'" He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ." Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.

The quote that convinced Charles Wesley was from Galatians 2:20.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians  at Galatia (modern-day Turkey), who thought they needed to add religious rituals to their faith to ensure that they were "good enough" to go to heaven:

...The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Martin Luther wrote:

If I, a condemned sinner, could have been purchased and redeemed by any other price, why should the Son of God have given Himself for me? Just because there was no other price in heaven and on earth big and good enough, was it necessary for the Son of God to be delivered for me? This He did out of His great love for me, for the Apostle says, “Who loved me.”
Did the Law [of Moses] ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.
Hence, Christ is...the Giver of grace, the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He is no less than infinite mercy and ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himself for us.

Being "holy" is not enough, because we can never attain perfection, and anything short of that is not enough.

Organized religion is not an individual.  Organized religion doesn't sacrifice itself in love, to pay the penalty for another person, so that person, too, can live forever in the light of God.   The only Person Who could do that, was God Himself.

Mom was a woman of faith.  She knew she wasn't good enough to get to heaven on her own; she trusted Jesus Christ.  She made sure her family knew that through her life and also through the things she left behind for us to rediscover.  And now you know what Mom (and Charles Wesley) knew about Easter.

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!


Here's a link to a website with lyrics and a quaint audio file of the tune:

Here's a short biography of Charles Wesley:

And here's Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians:

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