Saturday, July 26, 2008

Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying

Artist Ed Riojas of Byron Center, Michigan, recently completed this iconic crucifix for me which illustrates, in part, the words of "Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying." The text in Greek above the image of our suffering Lord is from 1 John 5:6a, "This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ..." The water and blood rushing from the wounded side of our Savior flow into the life-giving font of Holy Baptism and the life-sustaining chalice of the Holy Supper. The symbols on the linen covering Christ's naked shame say, "Jesus Christ, Conqueror." The theology of the cross states that God accomplishes His greatest work in the seeming weakness and foolishness of the cross. To look for God we need look no further than the cross. There we see in stark revelation the depth of His love for a fallen humanity. The subtitle on "Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying" is The Three Witnesses. One of the Scripture passages upon which this hymn text is based is 1 John 5:6-8: "This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree." The precious means of grace--Holy Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Word of God--indeed testify to all that God has done for us and for all by Christ's death on the cross, by which He brings life to our dying world, defying and defeating death itself!

1. Water, blood, and Spirit crying,
    By their witness testifying
    To the One whose death-defying
       Life has come, with life for all.

2. In a wat'ry grave are buried
    All our sins that Jesus carried;
    Christ, the Ark of Life, has ferried
       Us across death's raging flood.

3. Dark the way, yet Christ precedes us,
    Past the scowl of death He leads us;
    Spreads a table where He feeds us
      With His body and His blood.

4. Through around us death is seething,
    God, His two-edged sword unsheathing,
    By His Spirit life is breathing
       Through the living, active Word.

5. Spirit, water, blood entreating,
    Working faith and its completing
    In the One whose death-defeating
       Life has come, with life for all.


Orianna Laun said...

I know that writing a hymn is not merely writing a poem. How do you determine the pattern? I know that this hymn has a meter of 88 87 with a rhyme scheme of aaab. How do you make those determinations? I know that the tune FILTER was written for this text, as opposed to the other way around, so what was your mode for determining the shaping of this hymn?
Sorry for all the nosy questions, I am inquisitive about the craft, especially since I myself have dabbled in poetry, but most of my rhymes end up being limericks.

amelithpastor said...

This particular text was not written with a tune in mind, which is the usual way in which I write a text. That provides a certain freedom that is not there when one has a tune in mind. This text was inspired by Hal Senkbeil's book on the means of grace, "Dying to Live, the Power of Forgiveness" (CPH). In one of the chapters, he was making the point of how the means of grace are God's way of bringing life to our dying world. That seminal thought sparked the hymn, as well as the Scripture passage from 1 John 5:6-8. The text begins with the Scripture passage, has three stanzas on the means of grace--Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, God's Word--and then a recapitulation of stanza 1 with a slight variation to state that not only did Christ defy death, He defeated it. In Christ and empowered by His Spirit working through the means of grace, we share His death-defying and death-defeating victory.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

Just wondering if I could use your lyrics to accompany the song 'I am Trusting Thee' by Francis Ridley Havergal, for a church service in the UK?

I obviously wont use it without your consent. Really like the lyrics and there aren't too many songs which fit that subject.


Steve Todd
Worship leader New Street Baptist Church St. Neots

Anonymous said...

sorry, Looking at the wrong tune:

its Like a river flowing by Michael Perry.


amelithpastor said...

You would have my permission to use the text with a tune that fits the meter. This permission line should accompany its use:

Text: "Water, Blood and Spirit Crying" c. 1999, Stephen P. Starke. Admin by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.

Blessings in Christ!

Harold Senkbeil said...

Steve -

Nice to see your fine artistry on these themes from my book. Keep us singing the Song of the Lamb!

Hal Senkbeil