Hymns Can Be CreepyPosted: May 16, 2013
As Lutherans, we’re not afraid to talk about death. Death is inevitable, death can come at any time. We cannot teach the full sweetness of the Gospel without talking about death (Why did Jesus die on the cross? To save us from our sins and eternal death. Why is Jesus’ resurrection important? Among other things, it’s because it shows that He conquered death). Likewise, Luther’s explanation of the seventh petition of the Lord’s prayer includes praying for a blessed end, that is, a death in the faith.
This acknowledgment of death is apparent in many of our hymns. The last verse in “Abide With Me” states,
"Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me." LSB 878:6
Another example is found in “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus”:
"Let us gladly die with Jesus. Since by death He conquered death, He will free us from destruction, Give to us immortal breath. Let us mortify all passion That would lead us into sin; And the grave that shuts us in Shall but prove the gate to heaven. Jesus here with You I die, There to live with You on high." LSB 685:3
Now look at “In God, My Faithful God”:
"If death my portion be, It brings great gain to me; It speeds my life's endeavor To live with Christ forever. He gives me joy in sorrow, Come death now or tomorrow." LSB 745:3
There are many more examples in which Lutheran hymnody acknowledges and embraces the inevitability of death. For the most part, I find this openness about death comforting, especially when facing the life’s constant sorrows.
However, a couple of weeks ago my husband and I were looking at “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” (LSB 594). It’s a wonderful baptism hymn filled with sound teachings of what it means to be a baptized child of God. Then we get to verse 5:
"There is nothing worth comparing To this lifelong comfort sure! Open-eyed my grave is staring; Even there I'll sleep secure. Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise!"
Opened-eyed my grave is staring?! That’s a creepy image!
What adds to the creepiness of this phrase is the fact that the setting in the hymnal is very bouncy–it’s such a happy-sounding song! Go ahead and listen to it if you want (this video is from a WELS church, hence the different hymn number). Despite the spooky image, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is a great hymn that teaches what baptism gives us, tells of Christ’s death and resurrection, beautifully explains what happens when we die, and provides comfort as we face sin and death. I love this hymn, open-eyed graves and all.
What is your favorite “creepy” hymn?