Songs of Praise

posted Nov 22, 2010, 12:53 PM by Julian Garner   [ updated Nov 22, 2010, 1:06 PM by Simon Talbot ]
21 Nov 2010.

At our 'Songs of Praise' service on Sunday, Richard Rutty chose the hymn 'And can it Be' by Charles Wesley. This is why Richard chose it ...

Poetry and prose. Used down the centuries by poets and writers to convey a story, a message, a revelatory truth, or, in the case of And Can It Be?, a hymn written by Charles Wesley ( 1707 – 1780 ), an outpouring of amazement, thanks, hope and triumphal expectation. Five verses that encapsulate one person’s realisation of what God has done for him. That Jesus died for him; his amazement of this reality; the mystery; his sense of release and, finally an absolute certainty that at the end of his life there is a crown to claim.

The words of this hymn capture the essence of the gospel, the essence of my faith. They lift my spirit, that part of me that, through faith, maintains my relationship with Jesus. Said, or sung from the heart, these words are an affirmation and a confirmation of our changed nature. Changed from a life with little meaning to one of great meaning and future expectation.

Throughout the hymn there is a prevailing sense of revelation, release and expectation. There is a recognition that the spirit within us needs to be enlivened or released. This can only come with the understanding of why Jesus died. As Wesley says He died for me.

At beginning of verse four, he writes – Long my imprisoned spirit lay. The human life we live is not all easy. There are times when slings and arrows are thrown at us that make our lives difficult. At other times problems we encounter are of our own making. Human nature is such that we do fail. As we wrestle with this earthly life at times it can feel as though our spirit is imprisoned within the walls of what goes on day to day, things that affect our every day living get us down. I think Wesley saw this and wanted those who read this hymn to realise that there can be a release of the spirit available to us now that enables us to live this life with all its challenges and problems and that there is also another release at the end of this life which will bring us into Jesus’ presence which is what he declares with such conviction in the final verse.

And can it be?

Amazing love,
‘Tis mercy all,
Immense and free,
Alive in Him,
My chains fell off,
Bold I approach,
And claim the crown,
Through Christ, my own.

Whatever confronts us in life at this time may these words lift our spirits high.