Part 2 of 3 posts reflecting on Palm Sunday
In Part 1 we looked at the origin of Palm Sunday, both the tradition and the Biblical center. One of the central truths in Luke 19 is that Jesus came to seek and to save sinners, to give them peace, so that we would then praise Him and fulfill the purpose for which we were created.
Today I want to share a poem by John Keble. For many years John Keble had written poems for specific days and events on the church calendar. At the age of 35, he published them as a single volume called, The Christian Year. While I cannot recommend all of his writings, his poem on Palm Sunday brings out some deep doctrine in a beautiful way.
His poem on Palm Sunday is based on Luke 19:40:
And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.Luke 19:40
I’ll interject some of my own thoughts between each verse:
Ye whose hearts are beating highVerse 1
With the pulse of Poesy,
Heirs of more than royal race,
Framed by Heaven’s peculiar grace,
God’s own work to do on earth,
(If the word be not too bold,)
Giving virtue a new birth,
And a life that ne’er grows old—
He begins by addressing believers. Poesy refers to poetry. I think all believers could be in view, but particularly those involved in writing and performing music.
He reveals their identity as individuals who are more than royalty, recipients of God’s grace, new, eternal life, and with the purpose of obeying God on earth
Sovereign masters of all hearts!Verse 2
Know ye, who hath set your parts?
He who gave you breath to sing,
By whose strength ye sweep the string,
He hath chosen you, to lead
His Hosannas here below;—
Mount, and claim your glorious meed;
Linger not with sin and woe.
Keble understood the power hymn-writers and worship leaders have in stirring and moving the hearts of others. He challenges them to remember who created them, gifted them, and to use those gifts to praise God.
But if ye should hold your peace,Verse 3
Deem not that the song would cease—
Angels round His glory-throne,
Stars, His guiding hand that own,
Flowers, that grow beneath our feet,
Stones in earth’s dark womb that rest,
High and low in choir shall meet,
Ere His Name shall be unblest.
But what if they chose not to use their gifts to sing God’s praise? Well, the song will not end. God will be praised.
- The angels will praise Him.
- The stars will praise Him.
- The flowers will praise Him.
- The stones will praise Him.
This is not to say that God is satisfied with the praise of inanimate creation alone. God desires for humanity, the crown of His creation, to praise Him.
But as Jesus told the religious leaders in Luke 19, if the crowds did not praise Him, the rocks would cry out.
Lord, by every minstrel tongueVerse 4
Be Thy praise so duly sung,
That Thine angels’ harps may ne’er
Fail to find fit echoing here:
We the while, of meaner birth,
Who in that divinest spell
Dare not hope to join on earth,
Give us grace to listen well.
While it may sometimes seem that the remnant who praise God are few, what a joy to know that whenever angles look on earth they will find someone praising God!
Keble acknowledges that while we may sometimes fall silent in our expressions of praise, there is benefit to listening to others.
But should thankless silence sealVerse 5
Lips that might half Heaven reveal,
Should bards in idol-hymns profane
The sacred soul-enthralling strain,
(As in this bad world below
Noblest things find vilest using,)
Then, Thy power and mercy show,
In vile things noble breath infusing;
This is one of my favorite verse. We have the ability to reveal some of Heaven on earth by our praise. However, should our praise fall silent for the wrong reasons, and should we turn our gifts to sinful uses, he calls for God’s power and mercy to aid.
So, while noble things have been turned to vile practices, he calls on God to redeem the vile and return them a sense of nobility.
It is well-worth reflecting on the responsibility of each of God’s redeemed to have a redemptive influence on all around them. Not that we can redeem them spiritually, but we improve all within our influence.
Then waken into sound divineVerse 6
The very pavement of Thy shrine,
Till we, like Heaven’s star-sprinkled floor,
Faintly give back what we adore:
Childlike though the voices be,
And untunable the parts,
Thou wilt own the minstrelsy
If it flow from childlike hearts.
Praise is just that, giving “back what we adore.”
Praise is our proper response to God’s goodness.
Even if our efforts do not compare to other’s, God takes our “untunable” attempts and receive them when they come from childlike, faithful hearts!