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HYMN FOR LENT 5 More Love to Thee

Updated: Apr 3

German: Mehr Liebe, Herr, zu dir

Norwegian: Mer Kjærlighet til dig

Mary anointing Jesus feet at Bethany Dieric Bouts 1440s

Text: Elisabeth Prentiss (1818-1878). William Howard Doane (1832-1915)


1 More love to Thee, O Christ, More love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make On bended knee; This is my earnest plea: R/More love, O Christ, to Thee, More love to Thee, More love to Thee!


2 Once earthly joy I craved, Sought peace and rest; Now Thee alone I seek, Give what is best; This all my prayer shall be: R/


3 Then shall my latest breath Whisper Thy praise; This be the parting cry My heart shall raise; This still its prayer shall be: R/


REFLECTION Scripture gives us four stories of a woman anointing Jesus. Luke says she is a woman of the city, which some interpret to mean Mary Magdalene. She, especially, in the Baroque era became the image of the repentant sinner. Dorothe Engelbretsdatter, Norway’s first great woman hymnwriter, whose emblem is on the front page of the hymnblog, wrote much of Magdalene in her hymns and in her later collection of poems, Tear Offerings/Taare-offer where Mary Magdalene’s story is regarded as Scripture’s ideal picture of repentance and forgiveness.

Anointing of Jesus Niels Larsen Stevns

The Gospel of John portrays the event while Jesus is enjoying his last visit with his friends in Bethany. Mary is anointing his feet with expensive nard and drying them with her hair. The fragrance fills the room. Everyone there knows the value of it, Judas especially. He is the one with the money bags. His pious rebuke to Mary, and thus Jesus, that this could have been used to feed the poor, rings down through history in Jesus' answer: "The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:8.


Luke and John give us intimate pictures of these siblings and we recognize them immediately. They are all three acting their parts. Martha, in the kitchen, Mary at Jesus’ feet, Lazarus at table. Is Mary repenting for not believing Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead? Could be.


In addition, we have Judas playing his part. And the fragrance of the perfume rises above the room down to us, with its mixtures of repentance, thrift, charity, joy, death, betrayal, all in the same room. And Jesus is there, receiving, rebuking, dining with friends, all complicated by who they are. They don’t know quite what is going on, but for Jesus it is his funeral lunch.


Yesterday I was speaking with someone about congregations and how complicated people are. With it came observations on the current cancel culture, especially in regards to hating or loving people. One bad move can mean being canceled, or excommunicated from “polite” society—or the group which has canceled you. My conversation partner observed that people are not one thing: they come in complicated mixtures of good and bad.


Our observations turned to congregations. After growing up in a parsonage I could write the drama on what happens in a meeting where the congregation is debating an issue, like remodeling the church kitchen.Judas is always the first to stand up. He says, we don’t need a kitchen, we should give that money to missions. Then Martha announces that it is impossible to serve any longer with the kitchen in such disrepair, It makes it impossible to raise money to give to the poor. Then someone has a nephew who is an architect or contractor who might do it for free. There may be a Mary, one or two, who might point to the ministry we could do for our Lord by being together with him anywhere without remodeling. Finally, we stumble toward something that resembles a decision and vote to remodel the kitchen, all aware of how differently we see the issue. Some get the big picture, some do not, but all have a point of view to contribute.


That is what a congregation is: something like this group around Jesus as he faces his death for us. Hardly anyone sitting at the table is to die for. That may be our observation, but it is not his. He comes at this from love, love for all of us, each human being, warts and all. He came to die for us all, not those who may seem good.


The church is not a group of people who are perfect. Hardly! It is a gathering of sinners, imperfect, irritating, sometimes admirable, in need of repentance, who gather at Jesus’ feet to hear what he has to say to each of us who struggle to do his will. My colleague Walter Sundberg in his book Worship As Repentance discusses repentance as the central act of our faith and of worship. As Bryan Spinks says in his blurb about the book’s message, “Indeed, without repentance from sin, there is no Good News and no authentic worship.”


The fragrance of Mary’s worship rises up out of this room all the way to to us—as Jesus says in the Matthew account (26:13), “wherever this gospel is proclaimed, what she had done will also be told in memory of her.” “Hear thou the prayer I make/on bended knee/More love to thee/This is my earnest plea/More love to thee, O Christ, More love to thee.” The one Mary is worshiping brings out of our repentant hearts more love. Imperfect, repentant sinners, we worship him every time we sit at his feet and marvel at the fragrance of his love to us. Good news indeed!


Elisabeth Prentiss

HYMN INFO Elisabeth Payson Prentiss was a gifted young woman who suffered the death of two of her children while they were still very young. Born in Portland, Maine, to a pastor who died when she was young, she became a member of Bleeker Street Presbyterian in New York. She showed promise as a young writer andd edited a magazine, "The Youth's Companion." She married George Lewis Prentiss in 1845. He became pastor of South Trinitarian Church and then Mercer Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. She wrote this hymn after nearly losing another daughter. After two years abroad they returned in 1860, when George became a professor at Union Theological Seminary. Her most popular book was "Stepping heavenward” in 1869. W. H. Doane was one of the most famous writers of Gospel hymns of the day.A wealthy inventor and manufacturer he became one of the benefactors of Denison University. He wrote over 1500 tunes for Fanny Crosby's texts and many more. His most famous are "Near the Cross," "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" and Tell me the Old, Old story."


LINKS

King's Heralds

https://youtu.be/rRXdit0etF8


Fernando Ortega

https://youtu.be/Zl1nL6M7ogc


Tommy Walker Minisries

https://youtu.be/dnhCMThVADg


The Sinai Keynotes

https://youtu.be/fP4PXS_vSAw




NB: Suggestion for more study of Dorothe Engelbretsdatter

Preaching from Home

https://www.fortresspress.com/store/search?ss=Preaching+from+home


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