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Wheat that Springeth Green

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April 7, 2012 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by Mark Sprinkle. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Despite a common desire among Christians to find evidence for the activity of the creator God in the natural world, the Scriptures themselves more often give us images and analogies of God’s providence rather than “proof” that would be admissible in peer reviewed journals, much less in court. In his final climactic week in Jerusalem, Jesus used image after image, parable after parable to convey the urgency of his message that the Kingdom of God was coming to pass through his own coming Passion.

Though His disciples did not understand them at first, it was by new pictures (the lost coin, lost sheep and lost sons) and reinterpreted old ones (like the vineyard), that they came to understand the “facts” of His healing miracles and, ultimately, His death and resurrection. By reframing concrete happenings and material relationships, stories and images opened up possibilities rather than limiting them—and they still invite us to enter into them, rather than leaving us dispassionate and disconnected.

As we remember the narrative that takes us from Good Friday through Easter morning, the image of a buried grain of wheat invites us into the story rather than just describing what happens in it. Certainly this is an image for Christ Himself, but as I’ve written elsewhere, the seed isn’t just a symbol of His death and rebirth from the grave, but a promise of future abundance, lavish reproduction, and a pointer to the coming harvest: Jesus Himself is the “first fruits” of the new creation. We are called not only to be workers for that harvest, but to be, like Him, the harvested grains. As Christ entered into His glory through self-sacrifice, so we, too, give ourselves in order to share in and contribute to the shalom—the comprehensive flourishing—promised as the marker of God’s Kingdom now and in the future.

This combined image of death and renewal, single seed to field, is the heart of John Crumb’s hymn “Now the Green Blade Rises,” first published in 1928 in the Oxford Book of Carols and originally set to an old French Christmas carol (“Noel Nouvelet”). By clicking the image above you can hear a new version as revised and re-arranged by contemporary hymnist Alex Mejias. We offer it as a meditation on the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, the glorious promise of resurrection, and the call upon us all to join in God’s story of redemption and renewal.

“Now the Green Blade Riseth”

John MacLeod Campbell Crum (1872-1958),
© Oxford University Press
adapted and arranged by Alex Mejias

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain.
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom we had slain,
Thinking that he’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Alleluia, allelu!
When we die, we will rise with you!

Up he spring at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen;
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Alleluia, allelu!
When we die, we will rise with you! (x2)

When our hearts are weary, grieving, Lord, in pain,
By your touch you call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Alleluia, allelu!
When we die, we will rise with you! (x3)

Alex Mejias is the founder and director of High Street Hymns, a non-profit music ministry that exists to spread the Gospel and worship the Triune God in spirit and truth through hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Alex grew up in New Jersey and outside Washington, DC, receiving a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. For the past 15 years he has been leading worship for churches and ministries, writing and recording both new and old hymns, and touring the east coast as a singer-songwriter. Alex is also committed to the power of the creative arts to advance the Gospel and promote justice and healing in the name of Christ, serving, supporting, and collaborating with several other non-profit ministries. More details on these projects and music may be found at High Street Hymns.

Mark Sprinkle is an artist and cultural historian, and was formerly Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A phi beta kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996 he has been an independent artist and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. Mark and his wife Beth home-schooled their three boys, and are active in the local home-school community in Richmond, Virginia.

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HornSpiel - #68930

April 9th 2012

Nice song. I so enjoy these chorus hymn mashups.

Have you noticed the resurgence of traditional hymns interlaced with simple choruses? Not only does this provide something for different generations by mixing old with new, it helps to make the old hymns more intelligible. Hymns often very profound and dense in meaning—overloaded with theologically information. The fact that the lnaguge may be a bit archaic or poetic does not help either. By adding some easy to understand redundancy that emphasises the main point of the hymn, the message becomes easier to absorb.

Of course, using a contemporary vocal and instumental style with the old tunes is important too.

It may seem a simple thing to add a chorus to a hymn, but is it?

Mark Sprinkle - #68950

April 11th 2012

Alex adds a bit of subtlety, too, in having the chorus appear once, then twice, then three times at the end. (but not 17 times!) It may have nothing to do with the Easter message of the hymn, but then again. . .

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