Friday, April 05, 2019

Hymn of the Week: Pierced for Our Transgressions

This week I've written a hymn for the season of Christ's Passion, using the messianic prophecy of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53. Verse 1 of my song corresponds roughly to Is. 53:3-4, verse 2 to Is. 53:6-7, verse 3 to Is. 53:8-12, and the repeated chorus to Is. 53:5. I've set it to the tune of an old Civil War ballad, "When This Cruel War is Over," which struck me as having the right tenor of hopeful lament to fit with the Isaiah passage. You can find sheet music for the original tune here, and the background accompaniment here

This hymn might find particular use in a Good Friday service--it can sometimes be challenging to find a hymn that focuses exclusively on the sacrifice of Christ, without direct reference to the happy outcomes of the resurrection and the joy of being born again through his sacrifice. While normally it's appropriate to hold the cross and empty tomb together in our hymns, a Good Friday service usually attempts to enter into the desolations of the cross alone. Isaiah 53 is a good passage for that purpose: it maintains the balance of focusing, lament-style, on the sufferings of Christ, while at the same time offering just the slightest hints of the hope to come.

Pierced for Our Transgressions (Is. 53)

Jesus Christ, the faithful Servant,
Died upon the cross;
Man of sorrows, he knew fully
Suffering and loss.
Surely he took up our weakness,
All our sorrows bore;
Much despised, stricken, rejected:
Bruised and dying Lord.

     Pierced for our transgressions,
     Crushed for what we've done,
     Our own punishment was on him,
     Jesus Christ, the blameless one.

We like sheep astray have wandered,
Each to our own way;
God has placed upon his shoulders
All our sin and shame.
Though he was oppressed and beaten,
He made no outcry;
Like a silent lamb at slaughter,
He went out to die.


Stricken by our own transgressions,
He gave up his life;
He was buried with the wicked,
Cut off from the light.
Yet he'll see that light returning,
Though his life's poured out;
He has borne the sin of many,
Leading captives out.