Hymnology: O Jesus I Have Promised

I mentioned the other day that Prince Louis was going to be baptised on Monday. According to details released online, William and Catherine chose two hymns – O Jesus I have promised and Lord of all hopefulness. I was generally impressed with the selection of hymns and readings – they’re not the hymns and readings which everyone chooses, but I believe reflect a desire of the couple to genuinely bring their children up in the Christian faith. I thought the choice of O Jesus I have promised was particularly appropriate, and I’d like to talk a bit more about that hymn now.

I found a page with the history of the hymn – I found it an interesting read! At one point in the Church of England, it was sung so often at confirmation services (the hymn itself was written for the confirmation of John Bode’s children) that bishops had to request it not to be sung so much!

What strikes me about the hymn is how it’s so counter-cultural at the moment. According to the history page I just linked to, the hymn is based on John 12:23-26:

Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

Jesus here was facing his own death. Jesus knew what was going to happen to him – he knew that he had to die. But he also knew that this death was going to end in glory: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…” – he knew that his death was going to result in “many seeds”. In dying, Jesus accomplished the Father’s mission – that of forgiving our sins.

It is the same with us: we, too, face the same path as Jesus – laying down our lives for the good of others. We must hate our lives “in this world” – that is to say, we are to set aside the ways of the world for the ways of Christ. Hate is a strong word – not to say we should hate ourselves, but rather hate worldliness even when we find it in ourselves. There are two paths, two ways to live – either we can serve the world, or we can follow Jesus. You can’t do both. James 4:4 makes this clear: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

The stark choice – Jesus or the world – is then sweetened with the promise of eternal life for those who do follow Jesus. As Jesus rose to new life, so too will those who lay down their lives for Jesus’ sake rise again. And “My Father will honour the one who serves me” – God will honour those who serve Jesus, however hard it is, however much they give up – they may not be honoured by the world, but they will be honoured by God.

As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

All of this is beautifully encapsulated in O Jesus I have promised. I particularly like this verse:

Oh, let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

The idea of being corrupted by ‘the world’ is a very unfashionable idea, even within the church. And yet I think this verse expresses it well – there are foes there, which are both ‘around’ and ‘within’ (sometimes expressed as the trio ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’) but we need to seek Jesus who will shield us.

In fact, it makes me sad that, looking at the church today, this kind of message is often so absent: worldly thinking has overtaken in many quarters, and people have lost the notion that following Jesus involves a rejection of the world.

I hope and pray for the church, that this hymn would be sung with conviction at confirmations once again! But most of all that this idea of choosing Jesus over the world would prevail in the church. And I pray that little Prince Louis – as well as his brother and sister – would grow up to know this truth, and would grow up to plant his footsteps in those of Christ, and not the world.

Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for hymn – but it is no hardship, because in doing so we find true life.

Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.

This is part of an occasional series on hymns – you can see the rest under the hymnology tag.


Hymnology: Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken

Although I don’t normally pay attention to such things, last weekend Pippa Middleton married her fiancé James Matthews. (I was only taking an interest because the wedding was conducted by the former vicar of our parish here in Clacton!) Apparently they had four hymns during the service, one of which was Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.

This hymn is one of my favourites, written by John Newton – he who wrote the much more famous Amazing Grace.

The hymn itself is a little hard to understand if you’re not well-versed in the Old Testament and the wider story of the Bible (it is chock full of references), and this is why I thought it might make a good hymn to consider here. I won’t attempt to go through each reference, but try to show the bigger picture.

The most important thing to deal with first is: what is the city of Zion? Zion in the Bible is another name for Jerusalem – the city of God, the place where God dwelt with His people and where they worshipped Him. The temple was the earthly place to show that He dwelt with them there. Hence the words of the hymn: “He whose word cannot be broken [ref. John 10:35] / formed thee for His own abode.” So God formed Zion as the place where He would dwell with His people.

In the New Testament, we are told that ultimately this finds its fulfilment not in an earthly city but in the new creation (Rev 21:2) – where those who believe will dwell with God forever. All Christians are on their way to this heavenly city, a picture which John Bunyan elucidates in The Pilgrim’s Progress. This is fundamental to understanding the hymn.

The book of Hebrews really develops this theme. This is what it says in Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham lived “by faith” – he lived in a tent because he knew by faith that a greater dwelling was coming – as the author poetically puts it here, “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” What happened to Abraham in some way foreshadows the Christian life. Just as he lived by faith, because he was looking forward to something greater, so too the Christian lives by faith.

And this explains the third verse: “Round each habitation hovering / see the cloud and fire appear”. This is a reference to the exodus, where the people of Israel were led by cloud during the day and fire during the night. What relevance does this have to us? The Bible portrays the Christian life in some ways as a ‘new exodus’ – Christians are on a journey to the Promised Land – not on this earth, but the new creation. God protects and leads His people today just as He did in that first exodus. (The hymn ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah’ also picks up on this theme).

All of this leads to the conclusion, my favourite lines of the hymn:

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
all his boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion’s children know.

The book of Hebrews makes clear that this world – what we can currently see and touch – is far from all there is to life. In fact, Christians are members of a far greater kingdom – a kingdom which “cannot be shaken” (Heb 12:28). All the pleasures of this life are passing away – they are simply “pomp and show”. The only ones who have “solid joys and lasting treasure” – cf. Jesus’ words in Matt 6:19-21 – are “Zion’s children” – i.e. Christians, those who believe and trust in the Lord Jesus.

When I heard that this was sung at Pippa Middleton’s wedding, I have to be honest – I did feel it was a little ironic. The wedding itself was pretty lavish and cost a lot of money – the cynical part of me wonders if it might even be described as “boasted pomp and show”. However, I don’t want to comment on their faith – who knows, perhaps they knowingly chose it for exactly that reason.

Anyway, I hope that this helps to explain a little of the theology underlying such a wonderful hymn!

This is part of my hymnology blog series.

Hymnology: Away in a manger

I’m going to level with you right of the bat: I’m not a fan of Away in a manger. It’s too romanticised, too cute for me. I think I did like it as a child, but as an adult – not so much. However, I have an issue with the carol itself which is beyond merely a matter of style – I think it flirts with heresy. The offending lines are these:

The cattle are lowing
The baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

What’s the problem with that? I know a little about babies, and I know that babies do cry. Quite a lot. There’s nothing wrong with crying – in fact, if a baby didn’t cry you’d be more worried. What I don’t like about this verses is that it suggests that Jesus was somehow not a ‘real’ human baby – he wasn’t a proper baby, he was some kind of ‘super-spiritual’ baby. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I do remember wondering as a child whether this implied that Jesus was different to other children.

The idea that Jesus was not a real human being is an ancient one, and it is a heresy known as doceticism (from the ancient Greek dokeo, which means to seem or appear – Jesus only appeared to be human). This is a very early heresy – in fact the apostle John writes about it in 1 John 4:2-3 – “This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” Evidently some in the church John was writing to were teaching that Jesus had not come ‘in the flesh’.

So I’d like to use the opportunity to outline why it’s important that Jesus Christ came as a real human baby and not some heavenly apparition who just happened to look human. Irenaeus, a Bishop of the early church, wrote against doceticism. Here’s an except from one of his writings – Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching:

The Son of God became Son of David and Son of Abraham; perfecting and summing up this in Himself, that He might make us to possess life. The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death. […]

Now, if He was not born, neither did He die; and, if He died not, neither did He rise from the dead; and, if He rose not from the dead, neither did He vanquish death and bring its reign to nought; and if death be not vanquished, how can we ascend to life, who from the beginning have fallen under death? So then those who take away redemption from man, and believe not God that He will raise them from the dead, these also despise the birth of our Lord, which He underwent on our behalf, that the Word of God should be made flesh in order that He might manifest the resurrection of the flesh, and might have pre-eminence over all things in the heavens, as the first-born and eldest offspring of the thought of the Father, the Word, fulfilling all things, and Himself guiding and ruling upon earth. For He was the Virgin’s first-born, a just and holy man, god fearing, good, well-pleasing to God, perfect in all ways, and delivering from hell all who follow after Him: for He Himself was the first-begotten of the dead, the Prince and Author of life unto God

I appreciate this is not a simple passage and takes a little getting your head around. But I think the argument is quite straightforward.

The reason Jesus came was to save mankind from sin and death and to give life. Now, if Jesus wasn’t born – a genuine human birth – then he did not die a genuine human death. If he didn’t die, then he didn’t rise again, and if he didn’t rise again then he has not destroyed death. If death is not destroyed – then how can we gain eternal life?

Jesus had to become like us in order to save us. That’s the whole point. Jesus had to take upon himself human flesh to bring human flesh to God. Athanasius makes a similar point in On the Incarnation – only a man could identify with mankind and be united with them; only God could bring people to God. In Jesus, the God-man, fully man and fully God, we have the only one who is able to bring mankind to God.

So, this Christmas – and, indeed, all year round – it’s good to rejoice that Jesus was really and truly God, and really and truly human. One carol which does do a lot better in this regard is Once in Royal David’s City (apart from having a quibble with the line ‘Christian children all must be / mild, obedient, good as He’…):

For he is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

Jesus Christ was really human, like us. He knew tears and smiles, he can sympathise with us. This is the message which this beautiful video picks up on:

Hymnology: Dear Lord and Father of mankind

The hymn “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” is one of the UK’s most popular hymns. It is usually (in the UK at least) sung to a brilliant tune (REPTON) and its poetic lyrics capture many people’s imagination. It is a well loved traditional hymn and an established part of our repertoire. But there is one small question I’ve always wrestled with: what do the words actually mean? It’s more than a little puzzling! Is it truthful and helpful for congregations to sing?

One of the interesting things about the hymn is its history. The stanzas of the hymn are taken from a poem by an American Quaker, John Greenleaf Whittier:

Entitled The Brewing of Soma, the poem dealt with various kinds of intoxication – by alcohol, drugs or fanaticism. Soma (a word later used by Aldous Huxley for the feel-good drug in Brave New World) was a sacred drink mentioned in ancient Sanskritic books of Indian religion. Whittier’s poem is prefaced by a quotation from Max Müller, the first professor of philology at Oxford, who had misty racial theories based on these immemorial rites.

Eleven of Whittier’s stanzas preceded the six retained for the hymn. They range over the Vedic hallucinogens, the dance of the Islamic Dervish and the trance of the medieval Christian flagellant.

(You can read the full poem online here – it’s not very long).

It seems that the poem itself is in the context of people inducing ecstatic religious experience by drugs or dancing and so on. In contrast, Whittier – a Quaker – believed that God was to be found in the stillness and quiet. This is fairly common Quaker belief, from the few Quakers I’ve actually talked to! The message seems to be – stop trying to find God in these strange ways, just be still and let God speak to you.

When you see it in that light, the lyrics are understandable. The whole thing is shot through with references to stillness or quiet: “without a word”, “the silence of eternity”, “deep hush”, “tender whisper”, “noiseless”, etc. It’s all about being still and letting God speak in the silence.

The problem is, I’m not sure this is really a very Christian idea. The song mentions Jesus once, where apparently he shared “the silence of eternity” with the Father. Jesus certainly withdrew to pray, although there’s no indication that he withdrew simply to enjoy ‘silence’ with God! The poem also has the line “speak through the earthquake, wind and fire” – a reference to 1 Kings 19, where God was in the small whisper rather than in the more dramatic events. But – God still spoke. You know, words.

The more I think about this hymn the more I dislike it: I disagree with the main idea – that in order to hear God speak you just need to be still. Yes, we don’t need frenzied dancing or drugs to communicate with God. But that doesn’t mean we can dispense with words altogether. (This is the same issue I have with contemplative prayer, although that’s a story for another time).

Sadly, I think – like Love Divine – this hymn should relegated to the history books.

Hymnology: Love Divine and perfectionism

Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley

This morning I read an interesting post on the Church Society blog: Should we stop singing ‘Love Divine’? Charles Wesley is a great hymn writer and Love Divine has always been one of my favourites, but this post did make me reconsider. The goal of this little ‘hymnology’ series is to think about hymns and the theology behind them – and sometimes that might mean taking down a sacred cow. If a hymn expresses theology which is unclear or unhelpful, then it’s probably not a good idea to sing it! We need to be concerned with truth and clarity in our songs as much as we are in preaching.

The post I mentioned above has done a pretty good job of outlining the problem with Love Divine, and I would suggest you read it before carrying on with this one; I just wanted to expand a little on the underlying theology of Charles Wesley. The teaching mentioned in that post is perfectionism – that is, the belief that moral perfection is attainable in this life. In other words, there can be a point in this life when someone is no longer under the power of sin.

John Wesley – Charles’ brother – seemed to teach perfectionism, although it should be noted that he was a man who is quite hard to nail down when it comes to this issue: he would say apparently contradictory things – sometimes he claimed that perfection was attainable, other times he didn’t. And, of course, Charles and John did have their disagreements on various aspects of theology. However, the perfectionism theology evident in Love Divine – in its original form at least – fits quite well with the general holiness movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. The movement believed that moral perfection was attainable when one surrendered all to God. There would be a second blessing of the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden sin would disappear from your life. Most of this theology was based on a misreading of Romans 6.

What’s interesting about this teaching is that it was for many years mainstream evangelical teaching with the Keswick Convention. Keswick was started by a man named Thomas Dundas Harford-Battersby (brilliant name), who was himself influenced by the teaching of Hannah Pearsall-Smith and others from the holiness movement. The structure of the week, the ‘God-given sequence’, was designed to bring you to a point of surrender to the Holy Spirit and receiving his fullness.

However, it is exactly what happened to Harford-Battersby and others in the holiness movement which should give us serious pause for thought when it comes to perfectionism: many of them struggled with depression because of their sin. If you genuinely think that sin can be completely conquered in this lifetime, then if in your life you find that sin is not conquered – chances are you’re going to be devastated. Having too high an expectation of sanctification will inevitably lead to disappointment.

On the other hand, as the apostle John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Bible makes it clear that at no point in this life can we claim to be without sin! Sin will be with us for as long as we live on this earth – there will come a day when it is gone, but not yet. We should hope and expect change to happen, of course – otherwise there would be no point in the Christian life at all! – but no-one will ever achieve perfection in this life.

Of course, most people (if not all) don’t have perfectionism in mind when singing Love Divine. I certainly don’t! And, of course, the words that we actually sing are a little different now to the words which Charles Wesley actually wrote. I think when I’ve sung it in church I’ve tended to think about it being looking to the future in a ‘new creation’ sense. But now I look at the words and actually analyse it – I can see how it fits with a ‘second blessing’ / perfectionism theology. Sadly I think the hymn has survived simply because it has some beautiful phrases and is usually sung to a rousing tune – rather than because it is clear and sound theologically. But I think the blog post I mentioned above may be right: perhaps it is time to quietly shelve Love Divine – it’s not as if there are a shortage of decent hymns out there, perhaps it’s time for some others to take the limelight.

Suggestions for good modern or traditional hymns about God’s love welcome!

Just for fun…

Charles Spurgeon was brilliant on perfectionism. Here are a couple of quotes, the first from the man himself and one from a book by David Watson recounting a story about Spurgeon:

One man, who said he was perfect, called upon me once, and asked me to go and see him, for I should receive valuable instruction from him if I did. I said, ‘I have no doubt it would be so; but I should not like to go to your house, I think I should hardly be able to get into one of your rooms.’ ‘How is that?’ he inquired. ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘I suppose that your house would be so full of angels that there would be no room for me.’ He did not like that remark; and when I made one or two other playful observations, he went into a towering rage. ‘Well, friend,’ I said to him, ‘I think, after all, I am as perfect as you are; but do perfect men ever get angry?’ He denied that he was angry, although there was a peculiar redness about his cheeks, and a fiery flash in his eyes, that is very common to persons when they are in a passion.

In the past, when men and women had been blessed by the Spirit (whatever they called it), they sometimes claimed that they were so dead to sin and so full of love that it was no longer possible for them to sin. When the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon heard a man teaching such nonsense at a conference one evening, he poured a jug of milk over the man’s head at breakfast the next morning. By the man’s unholy reaction, the doctrine of sinless perfection was speedily disproved!

Hymnology: Trinitarian Worship

Last year, Andrew Wilson wrote A Songwriting Rant about modern worship songs. He brought a number of charges against contemporary worship songs, but the one which really made me think was the third one:

3. Lack of Trinitarianism. I was at a funeral recently singing “Eternal Father, strong to save” … The entire hymn, Victorian and English though it is, is structured around the Trinity … That sort of thoughtful Trinitarianism, even in hymns which we might dismiss as rather quaint and overly reminiscent of the scene in Titanic, was standard fare for songwriting and liturgy for hundreds of years … Yet the vast majority of modern songs are functionally binitarian or unitarian, and only use generic forms of address (you, God, Lord) as opposed to specific ones (Father, Christ, Jesus, Spirit, etc). If you’ve ever heard people start their prayers with “Yes, Father Lord Jesus, we …”, you’ll know that this phenomenon has got into the evangelical water cycle, and its main way in, I suspect, has been through our songs.

This really struck me at the time, because it was something I think I’d only realised subconsciously before. How many contemporary worship songs glorify God for being triune? I’m not a betting man, but I’d bet that if you went through the latest edition of Songs of Fellowship you wouldn’t find many of those 500 songs talking about the Father, Son and Spirit.

People are confused about the Trinity. This is not surprising: it’s a difficult subject and often one which is avoided for that reason. But those difficulties have not changed over the centuries and yet many of our forebears managed to write hymns and songs which glorified the Trinity.

I was reminded of this recently with the hymn Christ is made the sure foundation. It’s a wonderful ancient hymn (translated from Latin written in the seventh century).The second verse ends with the lines: “God the One-in-Three adoring / in glad hymns eternally.” And the fifth and final verse says:

Praise and honour to the Father,
praise and honour to the Son,
praise and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One:
one in power and one in glory
while eternal ages run.

Those are wonderful words, which will be familiar to you if you’re used to traditional forms of Anglican worship: Psalms, for example, end with the doxology: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever. Amen.”

Why does all this matter? Why is it so important that we get the Trinity right? Most Christians – and this would have included me until not so long ago – see the Trinity as something intellectual, abstract, removed from the daily Christian life. It’s something which we need to believe to be Christian, but we don’t really think much about it day-to-day. It doesn’t affect how we love God, love other people, etc.

But this is completely the wrong way to look at it. God is good news precisely because God is Trinity. In John 17:3 Jesus says: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you [the Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” So eternal life means knowing God. The Christian life is about knowing God – and knowing God is about knowing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no other way to know God.

Right at the start of Mike Reeves’ book The Good God, he says this:

For it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God. If the Trinity were something we could shave off God, we would not be relieving him of some irksome weight; we would be shearing him of precisely what is so delightful about him. For God is triune, and it is as triune that he is so good and desirable.

The Trinity is not some dusty, philosophical doctrine which we grudgingly need to hold on to but is remote from our everyday experience as Christians. It is the beating heart of the Christian faith, the gospel, our everyday experience. Jesus the Son brings us to God the Father, we have access to him in one Spirit.

The Trinity is something which should be celebrated, which should be sung about, which should be better known in our churches! We don’t worship ‘God’ in a generic sense, we worship this God – the one-in-three and three-in-one, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who has revealed himself to us. What is distinctive about Christian worship is that this is the God we worship – and so our worship music should reflect that.

So my plea and my hope is that more songs will be written which reflect the triune nature of the glorious God we serve – and to that end I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who can recommend modern songs which are good on that front. Please do drop me a line if there are any you can recommend!

Hymnology: The greatest day in history

At Easter time, one of the things I often wonder is why we (and, I should say, I’m very much preaching to myself here) spend so much of the year more or less ignoring the resurrection. We talk about the cross an awful lot of the time, but often we don’t talk so much about the resurrection. I was struck by this over the last few weeks: I’m so used to thinking of Paul resolving to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) that it’s a bit of a surprise when he talks in a very up-front way about the resurrection.

For example, in Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Athens, he says:

‘Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’

I was trying to think how many evangelistic talks I’ve heard which actually talk about the resurrection as proof that God will judge the world with justice through Jesus. Not many, if truth be told. I think we so often focus on the cross that we gloss over the resurrection – but, as Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). The resurrection is a vindication of Christ, it is a proof that Christ was who he says he was. The resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. And it is the proof that he is alive and one day all of us are going to meet him as judge.

“Won’t you please get to the song?”

Sorry! But I just wanted to introduce why I really like this song. I’ve been thinking about it a bit over the past few days, and what Tim Hughes does in the song is combine our sins being washed away with a song focussing on Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, I think it draws together Good Friday and Easter Sunday pretty well.

The lyrics themselves are fairly straightforward, I don’t want to analyse them – but I think I have been thinking this Easter about the profound nature of the resurrection, how it changes everything: if Jesus really did rise from the dead, everything about how we live our lives changes. This life is not all there is – there is a resurrection, hardship today is bearable because of that. Our sins really have been forgiven, our faith is not futile. And the resurrection is a challenge: all of us will one day stand before the risen Lord Jesus as judge. He is the only one who is risen from the dead, no-one else has ever defeated death.

This is what I’ve been thinking about as we’ve sung the lines, “I’ll never be the same / forever I am changed” – the resurrection means that our lives are forever changed.

Alright, this has been less about the song than about a particular thought I’ve had over Easter, but still. I haven’t done one for a while so you’ve got to take what you can get…

This is part of my ‘hymnology’ blog series.