The author of this hymn is Bishop William Walsham How. Bishop How was known as the “omnibus bishop”, a reference to his preferred method of travel around his diocese in the East End of London where he worked among the miserable social conditions of the nineteenth century slums.

He is also a well-loved hymnist. This particular hymn comes from his Children’s Hymns of 1872.  It was later included in the English Hymnal under the “At Catechism” section, but clearly there is something about how the hymn offers theological meaning through childish words, which has earned it a place in the grown-up repertoire too.

 

What is it then, about the story and the way it is told in this hymn which expresses my own understanding of the meaning of the Crucifixion.

How strange that the very verses which I find so powerful, are the ones cut out in the New English Hymnal. Especially verse 4. As a child and as a woman I still try to think about the cross and see him there and try to imagine the pain in a human way, and then as Bishop How says, “I could but see a little part”. The great love, like a fire, in Jesus’s heart for the whole world but even for me responds to the flame I try to keep kindled in my own heart along the way. For me the Crucifixion story, cluttered about sometimes with images from films and plays and sermons, is made simple and unimaginably redeeming by the childish words of this hymn.

1 It is a thing most wonderful,
Almost too wonderful to be,
That God’s own Son should come from Heav’n,
And die to save a child like me.

2 And yet I know that it is true;
He chose a poor and humble lot,
And wept, and toiled, and mourned, and died,
For love of those who loved Him not.

3 I cannot tell how He could love
A child so weak and full of sin;
His love must be most wonderful,
If He could die my love to win.

4 I sometimes think about the cross,
And shut my eyes, and try to see
The cruel nails and crown of thorns,
And Jesus crucified for me.

5 But even could I see Him die,
I could but see a little part
Of that great love, which, like a fire,
Is always burning in His heart.

6 It is most wonderful to know
His love for me so free and sure;
But ’tis more wonderful to see
My love for Him so faint and poor.

7 And yet I want to love Thee, Lord;
Oh, light the flame within my heart,
And I will love Thee more and more,
Until I see Thee as Thou art.

getting closer to preparing a ministry specification for lay ministry. We went through the details at a study day today. Serious stuff – how much time can I really put into ministry? How do I commit totally to God and how He chooses to use me yet remain committed to my role as teacher and trainer and developer of people? Lay ministry involves a lay perspective – if I overdo the church work, then I begin to lose a lay perspective and if God wants me to work for him through my jobs, I am shooting myself in the foot.
On the other hand I am serious about ministry, so I want to make sure I can give sufficient time to church work. OK I know God works through me outside church work too. But part of what I am doing by becoming a Reader is committing to an explicit ministry – time, activities, work which takes advantage of what I have to offer, but doesn’t stop me being who I am.
I guess it is less about how much time can I commit and more about how I can make my normal work roles as well as my parish work count as ministry.