Live from New Orleans – it’s Hymn by Hymn with Friends! Today’s guest is the sweet Rev. Marcia Stanard.
We had such a great conversation, wherein we challenged ourselves to lean into the particularities of ALL the world’s theologies, including Christianity. We also talked about the connection between resurrection in nature – I shared a fascination with the resurgence of Mt St Helens – and the resurrection of Christianity.
Perhaps most interesting to me, from the beginning of our conversation, which you can listen to here, was Marcia’s observations about a change we made to the first line of the second verse. We sing “Love by hatred slain” – but the original line is “Love whom we have slain.” I thought the change was good – and it is – but Marcia offered a “yes…and,” suggesting that the changed line could be read as removing our responsibility for the culture that saw Jesus as a threat… othering the evil as though we have no part in it. Take a listen and see what you think of this perspective.
Of course we also talked about the tune, and hymnody in general, and the possibilities of a book that could emerge from this, and hopes for a hymnal commission, and a bit about the stories I am gratefully receiving from Mark Belletini. I hope you’ll listen.
Meanwhile, here’s our text:
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
In the grave they laid him, Love by hatred slain,
thinking that never he would wake again,
laid in the earth, like grain that sleeps unseen:
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Love’s touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
This lyric, by John MacLeod Campbell Crum, an early 20th century Anglican priest, is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it gets right to the heart. And, in true UU fashion – even though he wasn’t a UU – it does that great thing of connecting the Christian Easter story to nature’s resurrection.
We sang the tune not long ago, in Sing We Now of Christmas, which appear to be the original lyrics (translated from the French); yet Noel Nouvelet is the common tune for Crum’s lyrics, too – so make of that what you will. It’s somewhat joyful but not really; there too is a bittersweetness.