My song is love unknown, My Saviour’s love to me; Love to the loveless shown, That they might lovely be. O who am I, That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?
He came from His blest throne Salvation to bestow; But men made strange, and none The longed-for Christ would know: But O! my Friend, My Friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend.
Sometimes they strew His way, And His sweet praises sing; Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King: Then “Crucify!” is all their breath, And for His death they thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite? He made the lame to run, He gave the blind their sight, Sweet injuries! Yet they at these Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.
They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away; A murderer they save, The Prince of life they slay, Yet cheerful He to suffering goes, That He His foes from thence might free.
In life no house, no home, My Lord on earth might have; In death no friendly tomb, But what a stranger gave. What may I say? Heav’n was his home; But mine the tomb Wherein he lay.
Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine; Never was love, dear King! Never was grief like Thine. This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
St John 15: 15-17
This Passiontide hymn has been described as ‘almost painful in its emotional intimacy and humanity.’ Written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman, the telling of Christ’s story and ours reads fresh from the page, resounding with truth.
‘Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be’ God’s love has flowed into our hearts so that we might be inwardly changed to be more like Jesus. This is the hope into which we have been born – that the fickleness of the human heart is countered by the faithfulness of God.
This exquisite hymn with natural simplicity then claims Christ as friend. With my friend, I can be myself without defences; with my friend, I understand that I am a gift. Most of all with my friend, I see Jesus in warm companionship, and with the hymn writer I testify:
This is my friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend
Lord Jesus, On this eve of your triumphal entry Deliver us from short lived alleluias. Help us to ponder further, all that your love has accomplished, Inspire us to call you friend – forever, Amen
The Rev’d Richard Church is is part of the ministry team at Islington URC and Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship).