163

What Grace Is This

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song reflects the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ on Calvary, events whose significance and purpose is deepened by the confessions of the church. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-44 explain the significance of each step of his suffering. Question and Answer 40 testifies that Christ had to suffer death “because God’s justice and truth require it; nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”
 
The Belgic Confession, Article 20 professes that “God made known his justice toward his Son…poured out his goodness and mercy on us…giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”
Consider also the testimony of Belgic Confession, Article 21: “He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”

Call to Worship

Loving God,
we know that you seek the lost and wandering sheep.
May our worship today be a means through which many come to know you
and to trust in Jesus as their Savior. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we account him stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
—from Isaiah 53:1, 4-5, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Today we remember Jesus was crucified.
He was pierced for our transgressions.
He suffered and died for our iniquities.
We remember the sacrifice of our Lord with gratitude
because his death gives us life and brings redemption to the world.
Let us worship our Savior.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

God so loved the world that he gave his own dearly beloved Son
so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have everlasting life.
On this day of remembrance and hope, we declare with joy:
God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world but to save it.
Let us worship God.
—based on John 3:16-17
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

King of glory,
we adore you, our Savior and Lord.
You suffered on the cross
and gave your life as a ransom for many.
We bless and thank you for the outpouring of your love
and offer our worship today out of unspeakable gratitude. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Let us remember Jesus,
who, though rich, became poor and dwelt among us;
who was mighty indeed, healing the sick and the troubled;
who, as a teacher to his disciples, was their companion and servant.
May we ever be grateful for Jesus the Christ
and what he has done for us.
Let us remember Jesus,
who prayed for the forgiveness of those who rejected him
and for the perfecting of those who received him;
who loved all people and prayed for them,
even if they denied and rejected him;
who hated sin because he knew the cost of pride and selfishness,
of cruelty and hatred, both to people and to God.
May we ever be grateful for Jesus the Christ
and what he has done for us.
Let us remember Jesus,
who humbled himself, obedient unto the cross.
God has exalted him who has redeemed us
from the bondage of sin and given us new freedom.
May we ever be grateful for Jesus the Christ
and what he has done for us and continues to do for us.
[Silence of remembrance]
[Reformed Worship 18:15]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Blessing/Benediction

Brothers and sisters,
go out in the knowledge
that the one who thought
we needed dying for,
also thought we were worth dying for,
and gave himself up for us,
a terrible and thrilling sacrifice.
Let this blessed assurance be upon you as you leave,
that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe,
died for you, out of love for you, in order to bless you now and always. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

May God the Father, who so loved our world
that he gave his only Son;
may Jesus Christ, whose love for us
made him obedient to death, even death on a cross;
and may the Holy Spirit,
who enables us to love God and each other,
comfort, encourage, and protect you.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Tune Information

Name
WHAT GRACE
Key
A♭ Major
Meter
8.8.8.6

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

The text of this new hymn gives one a sense of wonder and awe, as fresh words describe the crucifixion and death of Jesus. For instance, stanza five is a poignant text that sets side by side the cloths that Jesus was wrapped in at his humble birth in the stable, and the cloth that wrapped his broken and torn body after his crucifixion.
 
Instrumentation:
  • This tune will work well with simple instrumentation, either piano, organ, or guitar.
  • Be careful not to take it too fast and to keep the melody very legato.
  • The congregation will be able to sing more confidently if given more of an introduction than the 2½ beats preceding the melody. Consider playing this song through one time as the introduction. 
— Diane Dykgraaf

Hymn Story/Background

Author Lauie Gauger says, when asked about this hymn:
I realized the connection one day between what was done with Jesus’ body at his birth and at his death: both times his body was swaddled, or wrapped, by people who loved him. Maybe everyone else in the world had already noticed that, but it was a new connection for me. I thought, “He was wrapped by his mother, Mary, a few moments after he was born. And then 33 years later, he was wrapped again a few moments after he died. He was wrapped again for me.” And it just took the top of my head off, as Emily Dickinson would say. I needed to work with that. What came out was this, which eventually became stanza 5:
 
What grace is this! Once wrapped in cloths
and gently laid in manger-trough,
he’s taken, dead, from wretched cross
and wrapped again for me.
 
From there, I wanted to work with other juxtapositions related to the passion, and I tried to put one in each stanza:
1)The One who is eternal and therefore cannot die . . . does die.
2)The One who is “very God” (as expressed in the Nicene Creed) . . . stoops to the role of a sinner.
3)The One who is Lord of all the nations . . . submits to earthly Roman rule.
4)The One who is sinless . . . accepts the punishment of a common thief.
5)The One who was swaddled as a tender newborn . . . is swaddled again as a dead man.
6)The One who is exalted . . . “wears this raw humility” so that I may be exalted “to eternity.”
 
I also tried to include some echoes of the “servant songs” of Isaiah 42-53: “Therefore have I set my face like flint . . . he took up our infirmities . . . was pierced . . . was numbered with the transgressors . . . bore the sins of many.”
 
People often tell me it’s their favorite new hymn. To think that believers are praising God together using something I had a hand in creating is an extraordinary blessing. I sometimes wonder whether we’ll all sing it in heaven—in a perfected form, of course!
— Laurie Gauger

Composer Grace Hennig says, when asked about this hymn:
I was serving on a hymnal supplement committee when our chairman brought forward Laurie’s excellent text. It was paired with a standard tune, but I believed that an updated tune that better enhanced the text could be written. When the tune had taken shape I called Laurie right away and sang it for her. We were both happy with the result and since that day the hymn has taken flight into many churches nationwide. I have known Laurie since the mid 1980’s and always admired her writing and enjoyed our friendship. The success of our collaboration has been an unexpected blessing, and we look forward to more work together.
— Grace Hennig

Author Information

Laurie Gauger (b. 1965) has written and published hymns, devotions, religious curriculum materials, and hundreds of magazine articles. She has worked as an English and music teacher at Shoreland Lutheran High School (Somers, Wisconsin) and a curriculum writer and editor at Northwestern Publishing House (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). She currently works at Martin Luther College (New Ulm, Minnesota), where she serves as the campus writer/editor, producing two magazines and various other publications. 
— Laurie Gauger

Composer Information

Grace Hennig has served as organist, choir director, worship team leader, and accompanist in several congregations over the past twenty years. Presently, she serves as director of the Women’s Choir at Martin Luther College and is also active in music composition. Grace was graduated from Bethany Lutheran College (AA), Dr. Martin Luther College (BS), from Concordia University-Chicago (MCM) and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (BA). Grace has presented worship topics at conferences and served on parish worship consulting teams. Her hymn tunes and settings appear in Christian Worship Supplement (2008) and other hymnals.​
— Grace Hennig
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.