What Wondrous Love (Psalm 22)

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Like 103 and 305, the text is addressed to the soul. It meditates on Christ's wonder­ful love (st. 1), which brought about our salvation (st. 2), a love to which we and the "millions" respond with eternal praise (st. 3-4).

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.”

Additional Prayers

Merciful God, some of your children are joyfully singing your praise.
Others are languishing in despair.
Through Jesus you are acquainted with our grief
and in him we have resurrection hope.
Bind up those who are broken, bless those who are dying, shield those who are joyous,
and lead us all to your house, where we may feast together at your table. Amen.

Hymn Story/Background

Although various sources have attributed this text to a number of different writers, it remains anonymous. "What Wondrous Love" was first published in both Stith Mead's hymnal for Methodists, A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1811), and in Starke Dupuy's hymnal for Baptists, Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1811).
The text is addressed to the soul. It meditates on Christ's wonder­ful love (st. 1), which brought about our salvation (st. 2), a love to which we and the "millions" respond with eternal praise (st. 3-4).
WONDROUS LOVE was first set to this text in William Walker's  second edition of Southern Harmony (1840). Publication of the hymn in B. F. White's The Sacred Harp (1844) further promoted the combination of text and tune. The meter of "What Wondrous Love" derives from an old English ballad about the infamous pirate Captain Kidd:
My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, God's laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did when I sailed, when I sailed
So wickedly I did when I sailed.
Described by Erik Routley as "incomparably beautiful," the tune is in ABA form and in Dorian or Aeolian mode (depending on which version is used or which "authentic" performance is heard). The setting is by Emily R. Brink. The Hymnal 1982 includes the original three-part setting with the melody in the tenor; that setting could be useful for choirs alternating with the congregation on the hymnal setting. Sing unaccompanied, or use light accompaniment for stanzas 1 and 2, gradually becoming more forceful through stanza 3, and use full organ (or piano) for stanza 4.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Emily Ruth Brink (b. 1940, Grand Rapids, MI) graduated from Calvin College (BA in Music), the University of Michigan (MM in Church Music) and Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (PhD in Music Theory). She taught at Manhattan (Montana) Christian School (1964-1966), the State University of New York (New Paltz; 1966-1967), Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, IL; 1967-1972), and the University of Illinois (Campaign/Urbana; 1974-1983), also serving as organist and choir director in both Episcopal and Christian Reformed churches in those areas.

In 1977 she was appointed to the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee, and in 1983 moved to Grand Rapids in a change of careers to become the first music and worship editor of the Christian Reformed Church. She was the founding editor of Reformed Worship; editor of the Psalter Hymnal (1987), Songs for LiFE (1994), Sing! A New Creation (2001, 2002); co-editor with Bert Polman of The Psalter Hymnal Handbook (1998), and editor of many other worship-related publications. Since 1984 she has been an adjunct professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, directing the seminary choir in the first years, and introducing courses on church music and worship before being granted emeritus status in 2009. 

Her ecumenical work began with the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, becoming the first woman president (1990-1992); in 2006 she was named a Fellow of the society in recognition of distinguished services to hymnody and hymnology. She served in both local and national offices of the American Guild of Organists, and has been a member for more than twenty years of the Consultation on Common Texts, serving as chair from 2008 to 2014.

In 2002, she became a Senior Research Fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, contributing to The Worship Sourcebook and other publications; serving as program chair of the annual Symposium on Worship; and helping to plan and participate in worship conferences in more than fifteen countries. 
— Emily Brink

Song Notes

For many years, Calvin College hosted a Tenebrae service for students and the community. I’ve had the privilege of helping to lead a number of these, but there is one service in particular that I will never forget. This was the second year that we had used the first two lines of “What Wondrous Love” as a refrain sung throughout the service after each Scripture reading. As we heard and reflected on the last hours of Christ, each time we sang this refrain it was more and more powerful. Near the very end of the service, as we sang this refrain during the “Shadow of the Crucifixion,” an older visitor from down the road slumped against his wife, having just suffered a fatal heart attack. The congregation sat in tears and prayer as campus safety administered CPR and a defibrillator, to no avail. In the midst of this reflection on Christ’s suffering for our sake, this man had gone home to be with his Savior. As I left that place, the last stanza of the hymn came to mind: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on.” Indeed, what wondrous love this is, that frees us from the fear of death, and causes us to lift our voices in wonder at the love of the Lamb.
— Laura de Jong
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.