Posted by: rcottrill | August 15, 2014

Jesus Spreads His Banner O’er Us

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Words: Roswell Park (b. Oct. 1, 1807; d. July 16, 1869)
Music: Autumn, by François Hippolyte Barthélémon (b. July 27, 1741; d. July 23, 1808)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This Communion hymn (entitled “The Communion”) was written in 1836. You can learn a bit more about the author in the Wordwise link.

In its use, since it was written, the hymn has been divided in various ways. In general, the first stanza is omitted entirely. This says:

While the sons of earth retiring,
From the sacred temple roam;
Lord, Thy light and love desiring,
To Thine altar fain we come.
Children of our heavenly Father,
Friends and brethren we would be;
While we round Thy table gather,
May our hearts be one in Thee.

The author’s thought was that this was to be the signal for any unsaved present (or backslidden believers perhaps) to leave–“the sons of earth retiring”–so that the more spiritual folks could participate in the Lord’s Supper. Of course it isn’t usually put quite that way. Robert McCutchan says:

“Dr. Park had in mind those churches where the members of the congregation not wishing to partake of the Lord’s Supper are given an opportunity to retire before the invitation [to the Table] is extended” (Our Hymnody, pp. 419-420).

Some churches actually end the worship service, Benediction and all. After that, some leave, and others stay for Communion. I attended a church, when I was a boy, where this was done, and offer a personal opinion of the practice in the Wordwise link.

Sometimes, the remaining stanzas are split in two. With a tune used that accommodates four-line stanzas, CH-1 becomes one and two, then either the first half, or sometimes the latter half, of CH-2 becomes the third and final stanza. (Actually, the last four lines of the omitted stanza above would work as an opening stanza in this case.)

If you use the shorter stanzas, many metrical tunes will fit. You could try Evening Prayer (used with Saviour, Breathe an Evening Blessing); Rathbun (used with In the Cross of Christ I Glory); or Wycliff (sometimes used with All for Jesus.).

The fourth line of CH-1 speaks, “Of His mystic flesh and blood.” If this comes too close to the doctrine of consubstantiation, or transubstantiation for you (which many, including myself, do not believe is biblical), you could alter the line to “Symbols of His flesh and blood.” (I’ve changed the line in that way, below.)

This is a service of “remembrance” (I Cor. 11:24, 25), not of some mystical transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Those who believe the latter, do so on the basis of Christ’s words at the Passover meal when the Lord’s Supper was instituted.

“Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matt. 26:26-28, italics mine).

But the Lord Jesus was not offering His body and blood for them to eat. And there are other examples in Scripture of the word “is” identifying a symbol. For example, in explaining the meaning of the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:4-15), Jesus says that “the seed is the word of God” (vs. 11, italics mine). He doesn’t mean the seeds turn into Bibles. He means the seed sown in various kinds of soil represents God’s Word sown in hearts–hearts variously prepared to receive it. (For other examples of “is” used in the sense of represents or pictures, see Rev. 17:18; 19:8).

With the omissions and changes described, I believe this is a reverent and meaningful Communion hymn. I would personally use four four-line stanzas as they are below, sung thoughtfully, probably set to the tune Wycliff.

Children of our heavenly Father,
Friends and brethren we would be;
While we round Thy table gather,
May our hearts be one in Thee.

CH-1) Jesus spreads his banner o’er us,
Cheers our famished souls with food;
He the banquet spreads before us,
Symbols of His flesh and blood.

Precious banquet, bread of heaven,
Wine of gladness, flowing free;
May we taste it, kindly given,
In remembrance, Lord, of Thee.

CH-2) In Thy trial and rejection,
In Thy suff’rings on the tree,
In Thy glorious resurrection,
May we, Lord, remember Thee.

1) What do you do (or what does your church do) to make the Lord’s Supper meaningful to participants, and not simply a dry ritual?

2) What other hymns are particularly appropriate to this ceremony?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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