Yesterday I led “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” at our church. What a powerful hymn, expressing basic evangelical convictions about the gospel message in Christ. Haldor Lillenas, the writer of the hymn, about a century ago, understood the effects of sin on one’s life, but he also penned a tune that celebrated the wonderful grace of Jesus.
Christ is the very image of God, the one we are to reflect in our lives. We are called to mediate God’s presence and Spirit to others. Made in God’s image, as expressed in the creation story, we are called to pass on that imageness to others.
When Moses came down the mountain with commandments a second time, in Exodus 34, he seemed to glow with a shining face. Our challenge is to mediate God’s shining face to those around us, declaring the wonderful grace of Jesus.
God’s grace is matchless, deeper than the mighty rolling sea, higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain, and broader than the scope of my transgressions. Our call is to reflect the shining presence of the Spirit into the lives of those around us, always aware of the deep and wide efficacy of the grace of God.
The three-fold praise of God from Isaiah 6:3 became the substance of a great hymn of the church. “Holy, holy, holy,” Reginald Heber wrote in 1826. Well-known and used in many songbooks, the glorious praise of God that comes in three-fold repetition soars toward the heavens.
Heber wrote that our song should rise to God early in the morning. Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed trinity.
I see the pattern of three in many areas of life, in buildings, barns, windows, and elsewhere. Here, the prophet Isaiah, repeated by John the Revelator, is three-fold “holy, holy, holy.”
In Heber’s hymn, Cherubim and seraphim fell before the throne, expressing God’s past, present, and future holiness. Our response can be to extol the righteousness of God, to say that there is none beside him, perfect in power, love, and purity.
Charles Wesley wrote some amazing songs of praise and worship. I love the soaring lyrics of his 1739 hymn, “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing.” Wesley wrote these timeless phrases a year after his conversion, and he recognized “my great Redeemer’s praise.”
The arrangement of the tune, by a later composer, makes this one of the great hymns of the church. The tune is stately and the lyrics are worthy of insertion in the hymnbooks of many denominations.
“He speaks,” Wesley penned, and those who hear receive new life, those in mourning can rejoice, and the humble poor can believe. The name that charms our fears, the great Methodist hymnodist wrote, is Jesus. His name bids our sorrows cease, and gives life, health, and peace.
Our response can be “Glory to God and praise and love be ever given, by saints below and saints above, the church in earth and heaven.” In spite of the challenges that the church on earth faces with whatever difficulties that come our way, we still have at least one tongue to sing our great Redeemer’s praise.