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Ye Sons and Daughters of the King


“Ye sons and daughters of the King”  This text was written by Jean Tisserand, a friar who died in 1494.  Little is known about Tisserand except that he was a Parisian and founded a monastery for “penitent women.”  (One does wonder for what they were penitent.) 

            There are several notable elements of this hymn, and one can get a glimpse into the mind of the medieval/Renaissance writer.  This hymn is not primarily a catalogue of doctrine (“We all believe in one true God”), an abstruse expression of feelings (“I love You, Lord”), or a theological but poetical explication of Scripture (“Holy, Holy, Holy.”)  Rather, this hymn faithfully tells the story of Jesus’ appearing to His disciples a week after the resurrection, the account of which we read in the Gospel of John this morning.  From the apostles meeting “in fear,” to Thomas’ doubting, to Jesus’ showing His wounds, and to Thomas’ believing, we are led in this story through song (and there are manifold stanzas that are omitted this morning which would tell even more of the story.)  The “verses” of each of these stanzas attempt to recount the story faithfully, while we are given a chance to respond to these objective facts with a tripartite “alleluia” at the end of each stanza.  Medieval hymnody, in general, was “objective” in the sense that the hymn was not meant to codify one’s personal feelings about anything and one did not sing necessarily to express one’s feelings.  Rather, one sang in order to begin to comprehend the incomprehensible as exemplified in the final stanza:

Blessed are they that have not seen
And yet whose faith has constant been;
In life eternal they shall reign.  Alleluia!

Faith is the belief in something not understood or seen fully.  In one way, this hymn (and Jesus’ words in this Scripture reading) exemplifies medieval worship.  The glorious cathedrals were meant to inspire.  From the tower which beckoned for miles around, to the bright stained-glass windows meant to encapsulate bible stories for a pre-literate culture, to the smells of incense, candles and aged wood (and probably smelly people and farm animals, but those do not fit my analogy), to the serene chants reverberating through the nave, the cathedral was meant to be otherworld and mystical, yet also completely concrete and real.  One could see it, touch it, smell it, and even sleep and live in it, as many pilgrims would do for weeks.  Yet, at least in the view of their builders, these were buildings whose architectural groundplans and geometric ratios were taken directly from the mind of God (from I Kings 6).  They were as close to “heaven” as one could find on earth.  They were visible, tangible representations of what otherwise could only be known in faith.  Thomas doubted even after Christ appeared;  only after touching His wounds did Thomas believe.  The medieval mind, just as with the modern mind, can do its best to exemplify God’s presence through physical representation;  however, it is not possible for us to “prove” our faith as it was for Thomas.  This, perhaps, is a good thing.  And certainly bestows upon us Christ’s promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” 


Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

I Know that My Redeemer Lives


“I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”   Samuel Medley (1738-1799), the author of this famous Easter text, began his life as apprentice to an oilman in London, only to leave in dissatisfaction to join the navy.  At age 21, he received a terrible leg wound which required him to return home to live with his grandfather.  During his months of recovery, his grandfather read to him from the sermons of the recently-deceased Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter and Dissenting preacher.  This catechesis (“catechesis” refers to an true imbuing of the faith into one’s heart and mind, often through the mentoring of parents or other mature Christians) resulted in his conversion shortly thereafter.  He joined the Baptist Church, set up a school in Seven Dials, one of the poorest sections of London, and eventually became a successful pastor.  Much like his contemporary John Newton (writer of “Amazing Grace”), people would flock to hear Medley preach and his churches always grew both in numbers and in faith.   His leg injury so impaired his health that he died rather prematurely in 1799, but not before being able to publish several collections of hymns, many of which today can be found in Baptist hymnals particularly.

            This text is taken from Job 19, specifically verse 25 in which Job responds to his tormenter Bildad by saying “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!” Job here gives a prophetic account of the last days.  For those who wonder about the nature of the resurrection of the body, Job provides us the clue that our own bodies will be resurrected—we will be recognizable and distinguishable from others, for “I myself will see him, and not another.”  Some Christians believe our final bodies will not be corporeal, but somehow “spiritual,” as phantasms.  Yet, Job prophecies that “in my flesh I will see God.”  Neither he nor we will be disembodied souls.  From a theological point of view, Job here asserts not a specific faith in Jesus as we know Him today, but in the prophesied “Redeemer” whom Job knows to be “somewhere.”  (The word “Redeemer” here is sometimes translated as “Defender.”)   We New Testament Christians can see even more prophetic meaning in Job’s cry for deliverance than perhaps even Job could at the time.  Job knew his Redeemer “lives,” although Job did not know Who that was. We do know Who that was and is—we are fortunate to be able to call the Redeemer by name and know of the historical events surrounding his life, death, and life again. 

            How, then, can we be sure about our resurrection?  Paul states in Romans 6, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.”  It is no surprise that we humans must die—Christ died, too.  But Paul continues, “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.”  We baptized Christians also can be assured we will be resurrected in reality—Christ was not merely a phantasm;  His body bore the marks of physical crucifixion to which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!”  Baptism, then, assures us a place in heaven after the resurrection.  We know and can be assured of this since we also know that our “Redeemer lives.”

Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

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