467

O Christ, You Wept When Grief Was Raw

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

No hope is stronger than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: we “…belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…because I belong to him, Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life...”
 
The basic perspective of hope is expressed in Belgic Confession, Article 37 “…the Lord will make them (us) possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that day (of Christ’s return) with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 15, Question and Answer 42 clarifies what may be misunderstood when it says that even though Christ died for us, we still have to die, but “our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.” Additionally, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 explains that Christ’s resurrection “is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57 and 58 speak reassurances about the actual event of dying: “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body,” and “even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58).
 

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56 summarizes our hope by testifying, “We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and the Lord will be our light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

467

O Christ, You Wept When Grief Was Raw

Tune Information

Name
ROCKINGHAM
Key
D Major
Meter
8.8.8.8
467

O Christ, You Wept When Grief Was Raw

Hymn Story/Background

The story of the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) provides the context for this hymn for those who are grieving deeply over the death of a loved one. Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary had sent word for their friend Jesus to come when Lazarus was ill. But Jesus took his time, finally arriving “too late,” and joining the grieving sisters who said, “If only you had been here…..” Jesus also grieved; he loved all three of them. The text ends with a prayer that the risen Christ still speak to those whose grief is raw and to assure us all “from your empty tomb…that life never dies.”
 
This text is the first of sixteen hymn-like choral pieces in the collection The Last Journey: Songs for the time of grieving (GIA), with texts and music prepared by John Bell of the Iona Community. Each piece is also available separately from GIA. Some texts, like this one, were co-written with Graham Maule. The tunes were composed or arranged by John Bell, usually for organ, and often with a descant instrument. Bell’s original tune published with this text was named PALMER, but a note at the end says that “other tunes, such as ROCKINGHAM, may be used if the text is to be sung by a congregation.” That old beloved tune is well suited to this text, and in Lift Up Your Hearts, there is even a link to a psalm often sung at funerals: ROCKINGHAM is used again with a setting of Psalm 116 that includes the line, “His saints the LORD delights to save; their death is precious in his sight.” 
— Emily Brink

Edward Miller adapted ROCKINGHAM from an earlier tune, TUNEBRIDGE, which had been published in Aaron Williams's A Second Supplement to Psalmody in Miniature (c. 1780). ROCKINGHAM has long associations in Great Britain and North America with Isaac Watts' "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." The tune title refers to a friend and patron of Edward Miller, the Marquis of Rockingham, who served twice as Great Britain's prime minister.
 
ROCKINGHAM (or ROCKINGHAM OLD) is one of the finest long-meter tunes in the history of church music and is much loved by those who sing in harmony. A slight hold (stretching rather than adding a beat) is appropriate at the end of the second phrase and helps to provide a sense of two long musical lines. Stanzas 4 and 5 need the full resources of organ and other instruments. Keep the music stately and awe-inspiring with respect to the marvelous salvation of which the text sings.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

John Bell (b. 1949) was born in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, intending to be a music teacher when he felt the call to the ministry. But in frustration with his classes, he did volunteer work in a deprived neighborhood in London for a time and also served for two years as an associate pastor at the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam. After graduating he worked for five years as a youth pastor for the Church of Scotland, serving a large region that included about 500 churches. He then took a similar position with the Iona Community, and with his colleague Graham Maule, began to broaden the youth ministry to focus on renewal of the church’s worship. His approach soon turned to composing songs within the identifiable traditions of hymnody that found began to address concerns missing from the current Scottish hymnal:
 
I discovered that seldom did our hymns represent the plight of poor people to God. There was nothing that dealt with unemployment, nothing that dealt with living in a multicultural society and feeling disenfranchised. There was nothing about child abuse…, that reflected concern for the developing world, nothing that helped see ourselves as brothers and sisters to those who are suffering from poverty or persecution. [from an interview in Reformed Worship (March 1993)]
 
That concern not only led to writing many songs, but increasingly to introducing them internationally in many conferences, while also gathering songs from around the world. He was convener for the fourth edition of the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary (2005), a very different collection from the previous 1973 edition. His books, The Singing Thing and The Singing Thing Too, as well as the many collections of songs and worship resources produced by John Bell—some together with other members of the Iona Community’s “Wild Goose Resource Group,” are available in North America from GIA Publications. 
— Emily Brink

Composer Information

Edward Miller’s (b. Norwich, England, 1735; d. Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, 1807) father had made his living laying brick roads, and the young Edward became an apprentice in the same trade. Unhappy with that profession, however, he ran away to the town of Lynn and studied music with Charles Burney, the most prominent music historian of his day. A competent flute and organ player, he was organist at the parish church in Doncaster from 1756 to 1807. Miller was active in the musical life of the Doncaster region and composed keyboard sonatas and church music. His most influential publications were The Psalms of David for the Use of Parish Churches (1790), in which he sought to reform metrical psalmody (and which included ROCKINGHAM), and David's Harp (1805), an important Methodist tunebook issued by Miller with his son.
— Bert Polman
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