Dear Harmony Plains Hymn Singers,
It’s time! We are anticipating Harmony Plains Singing School 2014! Our theme is “Redeeming Love”. Christ’s redemption draws us like it did Anne Steele, the author of our theme song for 2014, To Our Redeemer’s Glorious Name, (hymn 4, OSH #11) to make plans to gather to lift our voices in praise for a whole week.
Anne lived in England from 1716-1778. Her father was a preacher for 60 years, but her mother died when she was just 3 years old. When she was 19 she suffered a severe injury to her hip, rendering her an invalid for life. When 21, she was engaged to Robert Elscourt, but the day before the wedding he was drowned while swimming! She never married, assisted her father in his pastoral labors, and for the last 9 years of her life was never able to leave her bed.
In spite of all her difficulties her disposition was described as “cheerful and helpful” and her life as one of “unaffected humility, warm benevolence, sincere friendship, and genuine devotion.” Her hymns are “very simple, clear, and beautiful, breathing a spirit of Christian faith.” Not just an occasional outburst of joy, she wrote over 144 songs that give beautiful expression to a lifelong sweetness of Christian character and depth of Christian experience. Her hymns are so rich and easily understood even by those of us living 250 years after her death. What accounts for such a life, simply but profoundly, Redeeming Love.
God’s love, and God’s love alone is the strong force that brings our hearts into joy in spite of the difficulties of earth’s greatest trials or the emptiness of life’s greatest blessings. Redeeming love alone will drive from our hearts rival and inferior thoughts and emotions. Jesus didn’t come with advice on how to clean yourself up, he came with the news that he himself cleaned us up without our help. Jesus didn’t come with a set of instructions you must follow to find redemption, rest, and forgiveness. He came declaring you are redeemed, loved, and forgiven. When you wonder what you are going to live for, when you wonder who will love you like you desire to be loved—No one will do it but God. We have believed the love of God and believed it as he intended when we experience the love of God in the sense that we are deeply in awe of how much he loves us, so deeply we desire to sing about it.
To our Redeemer’s glorious name, Awake the sacred song;
Oh may His love (immortal flame!) Tune ev – ry heart and tongue.
His love! What mortal tho’t can sketch What mortal tongue display?
Imagination’s utmost stretch In wonder dies away.
He left the radiant throne on high, Left the bright realms of bliss,
And came to earth to bleed and die! Was ever love like this!
He took the dying traitor’s place, And suffered in his stead;
For man, (O miracle of grace!) For man the Savior bled.
Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die,
And then I hope to sing this love In sweeter strains on high.
We’ve tried to live right since last year, sure, and we should have, but we have tried, and if we are honest, we have tried and failed. Trying to be perfect not yielding perfection though is a gift—it takes away your joy, but then gives joy back again. It gives it back again in the joy that Jesus was perfect in his life, died in our place, and arose having made us perfect. Let us cover over another in love (I Peter 4:18), we will never have perfection in ourselves. Let us also build up one another in love, for we are perfect in Him, as scripture declares in our 2014 Harmony Plains Singing School Text, Romans 5:8-9, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die, and then I hope to sing this love in sweeter strains on high. In awe that he went to the cross and accomplished my redemption.