St. Giles’ Cathedral
Holy Week 2020 Daily Devotion
Hymns for Holy Week
9th April 2020
Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat
Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat
where Jesus answers prayer;
there humbly fall before his feet
for none can perish there
Thy promise is my only plea
with this I venture nigh
thou callest burdened souls to thee
and such, O Lord, am I
Bowed Down beneath a load of sin
by Satan sorely pressed
by war without and fears within
I come to thee for rest
Be thou my shield and hiding-place
that, sheltered near thy side
I may fierce accuser face
and tell him thou hast died
O wondrous Love! To bleed and die
to bear the cross and shame
that guilty sinners, such as I
I might plead thy gracious name!
John Newton (1725-1807)
A Reflection by Craig Meek, Assistant Minister at St. Giles’
Having grown up in a small town near the middle of the United States, I’m not a particularly cultured person. My schools didn’t put on plays; our town never hosted symphonies; and I didn’t grow up in the church singing hymns. What is more, I don’t know how to read music and I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket the size of an ocean. But even in spite of my ignorance, this hymn never fails to ignite my imagination and strangely warm my heart.
Though its themes are many, perhaps today we might reflect together upon just two of its more central ideas. Consider first the opening line’s concept of approach and how it conveys a sense of desire or longing – a yearning for that which only Jesus can give. Burdened by the weight of sin and guilt; assailed by the evil one from every side, the hymn writer seeks out Jesus for rest.
Second, I want to focus our attention upon on the image of ‘mercy-seat’. Though sometimes lost in translation, the concept is borrowed from scripture and conveys something of the mystery of how – whether in, through, or because of Jesus Christ – our sins are forgiven. Standing in the shadows of mercy, the hymn writer puts a word of comfort and assurance upon the lips of those who sing along: For in Jesus Christ – our mercy-seat and redeemer – we neither fear nor despair nor perish under the weight of sin and our impending ruin.
Perhaps what I love most about this hymn, however, is its simplicity. Like the Gospel which it proclaims, one need be neither a lover of music and culture nor a theologian to grasp its message. For through its words and melody, we’re led to a person rather than a doctrine or idea; one who exchanged his own righteousness for our guilt and shame, so that we might as a result be called children of the Living God through him. What wondrous love, indeed – the hymn proclaims – that He would bear our cross and shame; that guilty sinners, such as we, might plead his gracious name.
Today’s Hymn Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat
Holy and Almighty God: Hear the prayers of your people as we respond again in faith to the mystery of your love. For the Scriptures tell us that you were wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities – that somehow, it’s by your wounds that we’re healed. Warm our hearts again, Lord, with the joy of forgiveness and share again with us that mercy which is never in short supply. To you be all honor and glory, both now and forevermore, we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Music for Reflection
Dieterich Buxtehude Vater unser im Himmelreich
While the Cathedral is closed, we are losing a very substantial part of our regular income, and it may take a very long time for things to recover after we are able to re-open. All donations, large or small, are therefore very welcome, to help us to survive, and to continue to fulfil our role in the spiritual and cultural life of the city and the country.