Forest Lake Talks

In The Cross of Christ I Glory

March 26, 2019

This hymn text is written by Sir John Bowring (1792-1872), a Unitarian world traveler who could reportedly converse in 100 different languages.  The title of this hymn was engraved on his tombstone.

In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time; All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.

We tend to associate the cross with darkness, but this hymn is full of references to light.  The cross, which has outlasted and outshone all civilizations, is the focal point of hope for all generations.  As an extensive world traveler, the hymn author would probably have witnessed first-hand the ruins of many civilizations and cultures, prompting him to begin the hymn this way.

When the woes of life o’ertake me, hopes deceive and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me; lo, it glows with peace and joy.

We pin our hopes on people and things, and then we are disappointed.  We worry about things that never happen.  We allow fear to paralyze us.  But the cross, as the symbol of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for our sins, conquers all.  It can fill our hearts with peace and joy, crowding out sadness, disappointment, and fear.

When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way,  From the cross the radiance streaming adds more luster to the day.

This verse makes me think of the stained glass cross at the top of our church tower.  At night when the tower is lighted, the cross becomes a beacon of hope for all who pass by.  What a powerful image it is for everyone, especially those who are living in darkness.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, joys that through all time abide.

Notice the opposites in this verse – bane and blessing, pain and pleasure.  The opposites in life are sanctified, or made holy, by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  These opposites are reconciled when we view them “under the aspect of eternity.”  (Albert Bailey, The Gospel in Hymns)  Full of hope, we can face life with the everlasting peace and joy that comes only through Christ.

Sylvia Trimmier – FLPC Organist

Listen to the tune we use in worship to sing this hymn.

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