Text: Henry Barraclough (1891-1983). Tune: Henry Barraclough (1891-1983)
1. My Lord has garments so wondrous fine, And myrrh their texture fills; Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine, With joy my being thrills. R/Out of the ivory palaces Into a world of woe, Only his great eternal love Made my Savior go.
2. His life had also its sorrows sore, For aloes had a part; And when I think of the cross he bore, My eyes with teardrops start. R/
3. His garments, too, were in cassia dipped, With healing in a touch; Each time my feet in some sin have slipped, He took me from its clutch. R/
4. In garments glorious he will come, To open wide the door; And I shall enter my heavenly home, To dwell forevermore. R/
MEDITATION When I think of Sunday evening services, many songs come to mind. Especially this one. Most of them we sang from the spiritual songbooks we had in church. Were they Lutheran? What was a Lutheran hymn or song?
Many leaders fretted that maybe they were singing their youth out of the Lutheran church. It became the topic of articles and letters to the editor in church magazines. One of the best answers to what a Lutheran hymn was came from N. Astrup Larsen. He thought a Lutheran hymn was one that taught grace alone, faith alone, word alone, slogans we hear around Reformation time. The focus should be on what Christ has done for us.
For Larsen the definition of a Lutheran song was not where it came from, but what it taught and believed. Others argued that to be Lutheran it had to be by a Lutheran writer or composer, something of a genetic argument. While I bow to no one in my love of the Lutheran tradition, especially as it comes to us from Scandinavia, I knew and loved these songs as well.
To deal with this issue, Lutherans printed many songbooks for Sunday school, midweek and Sunday evening services, camps, Luther League conventions, etc. They were always part of Lutheran song, but meant mostly for evening services or Sunday school. The most popular example of such a book in my experience was Youth’s Favorite Songs. It contained the Swedish songs of Lina Sandell and others, plus those of American evangelicals.
People still wanted to sing them even after Sunday evening services closed down because of TV. Now Sunday morning was the only time they were together to sing. So, as my colleague, Henry Horn, the pastor at University Lutheran Church in Cambridge, said, Sunday morning had to include that music. The newly published main line hymnals at the time had shunned it. The contemporary worship movement provided them and others. Thus, the worship wars. They are now over. And new main line hymnals include many of the songs once thought unsuitable, like much of Fanny Crosby.
Our hymn for today was written by a British immigrant. A musician, he came to America to play for the J. Wilbur Chapman revivals, working with the song leader Charles M. Alexander. One night he heard a sermon by Chapman on Psalm 45:8. Jesus as bridegroom. “All thy garments shall smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.” Chapman divided his sermon into three parts, how myrrh showed the beauty of Jesus, the aloes the bitter herb for embalming, and cassia, a medicine for the Great Physician to use in healing. Barraclough could not get the imagery out of his head that evening as they drove to their hotel in the Blue Ridge Mountains. By the end of the time, he had the chorus done: Out of the ivory palaces. By morning he had the tune.
Billy Graham loved the hymn for its presentation of the life of Jesus in the language of the psalm. Cliff Barrows and his wife Billie sang it once when they were pinch-hitting for an absent singer during a service Billy Graham was leading in 1945. The rest is history. Barrows and Graham worked together the rest of their lives. They loved this hymn because it told the story of how dearly Christ loved us—enough to leave the ivory palaces and take up flesh in a world of woe. All to save us! Praise the Lord!
Barraclough's first version had only three stanzas. Chapman suggested he add a last stanza on Christ’s return. It became a favorite with Christians around the country. Barraclough remained in America and became a fixture in the Presbyterian Church where he served for fifty years as secretary, and administrator of the General Assembly. This was the only hymn of a few he wrote that made it. It is still big on Youtube and edifying thousands if not millions of people. It is very popular among Presbyterians in Korea. A lovely melody.
FKCC Media Ministry
Kang Min Sung https://youtu.be/-zy2zTDpIC0
SA Samonte https://youtu.be/VyMIpGzflY0
Greg Howlett/Piano https://youtu.be/MLUalPWMK28