Monday, January 04, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Christ is Made the Sure Foundation

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 31 Num. 10
“Christ is Made the Sure Foundation”
First Published: March 12, 1998

This month’s “Hymn of the Month” is the majestic “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (Trinity Hymnal, 343). It is set to Henry Purcell’s glorious and joyful tune “Westminster Abbey” (and even if you don’t know that tune by name, you’ll feel like you’ve known it all your life when you hear it!). The hymn text itself comes from a very ancient Latin hymn translated by the famous John Mason Neale, and is focused on praise to God for his divine creation: the Church.

In the wake of our Missions Conference, this is an altogether suitable hymn of praise to lift up to our loving Heavenly Father. For as the task of missions is carried out, the family of God is being gathered in, and a gigantic celebration in glory is getting bigger. Imagine the joys and security and blessing of being a part of the body of Christ: the Church universal. That’s just what this song does. It is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to Father for making us into His Church by the Son and through the Spirit.

The first stanza rivets our attention on the foundation of our salvation, of our inclusion in the Church: “Christ is made the sure foundation” -- the Lord Jesus himself! The rest of the stanza piles up accolades for the Captain of our salvation: he is the head of the Church, he is the cornerstone, he is chosen of the Lord, he is precious to the Father, he binds the Church together, he is our eternal helper and our only confidence. Now that’s something to sing about!

In the second stanza, our focus of praise shifts to consideration of the glorious task of the church: the eternal worship of our triune God. “All that dedicated city” (what a beautiful phrase), the hymnist says, is dearly loved of God on high and pours our perpetual songs to God the Trinity. The praise is still to God here, but the praise is thanking God for loving us as he does and for giving us the privilege of participating in eternally worshiping him.

The third stanza of the hymn is a petition. It pleads with God to come “to this temple” (the Church) and to bring with him his needed lovingkindness -- in order to graciously hear and answer our prayers, and to pour out his undeserved blessings on us. The phrase, the plea “thy fullest benediction shed within its walls alway” grips the heart even as we think of it.

The fourth stanza continues this petition, asking the Lord to “vouchsafe” (that is, to be gracious enough to grant) the prayers of his people as well as the blessed eternal promises which he has made to us for here and the hereafter. The final stanza breaks into an unrestrained doxology to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (which manages, impressively, in about sixteen words to stress in an orthodox manner the massive theological concepts of: the simultaneous threeness and oneness of God, the equal power of the persons of the Trinity, the identical glory of the persons of the Trinity, and their shared eternality.

As we sing together this month, perhaps the Lord will remind us of the glorious destiny to which he is calling us and all those who by grace respond to the free offer of the Gospel. May this stir us to greater involvement in missions and to greater love for the Lord.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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