Tag Archives: Faith

The Cinch Review

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

The final blessing of Moses on the people of Israel is presented in chapter 33 of Deuteronomy. The first part of verse 27 goes like this (ESV):

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.

The famous American hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was published in 1887, and was composed by two Presbyterian men, namely Anthony J. Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. It was Showalter who received the initial inspiration, writing the refrain and the melody, reportedly after reaching for the above scriptural verse to console two former students of his who had both recently lost their wives. He then asked Hoffman—a prodigious hymn-writer credited with over 2000 religious songs—if he could come up with lyrics for the verses. Naturally he could.

In looking into the history of this song, I found the text of an old book online, written by one J.H. Hall, filled with short biographies of various composers of gospel songs. It includes this passage on Elisha Hoffman:

Mr. Hoffman’s first impressions of music came from hearing the voice of sacred song in the home. His parents both had sweet voices and sang well. It was their custom, in the hour of family worship, both morning and evening, to sing one or two hymns. The children early became familiar with these hymns and learned to love them and to feel their hallowing and refining power. Their lives were marvellously influenced by this little service of song in the home. A taste for sacred music was created and developed, and song became as natural a function of the soul as breathing was a function of the body.

As natural a function of the soul as breathing is of the body: What an inspired way of thinking about the singing of these kinds of songs. It immediately reminded me of the quote highlighted in this space last week from Abraham Joshua Heschel, where he says of losing oneself to prayerful music that: “it is not an escape but a return to one’s origins.” Continue reading Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

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Abraham Joshua Heschel on the Bible

I was reading an essay by Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book The Insecurity of Freedomand was struck by this paragraph:

Into his studies of the Bible the modern scholar brings his total personality, his increased knowledge of the ancient Near East, his power of analysis, his historic sense, his honest commitment to truth—as well as inherent skepticism of biblical claims and tradition. In consequence, we have so much to say about the Bible that we are not prepared to hear what the Bible has to say about us. We are not in love with the Bible; we are in love with our own power of critical acumen, with our theories about the Bible. Intellectual narcissism is a disease to which some of us are not always immune. The sense of the mystery and transcendence of what is at stake in the Bible is lost in the process of analysis. As a result, we have brought about the desanctification of the Bible.

Similar things have no doubt been said in many different ways, but I think that is extraordinarily well put. Those words were written in 1963. They struck me when I read them more on a personal level than as a societal or institutional criticism, although the “desanctification” of the Bible surely has had plenty to do with the rotting away of the mainline Protestant churches in America. Continue reading Abraham Joshua Heschel on the Bible

The Cinch Review

Region N11 of Large Magellanic Cloud (and Psalm 8)

Large Magellanic Cloud Psalm 8

Pictured here is just another breathtaking image from the Hubble Space Telescope, recently released. It is of a region called N11 of the Large Magellanic Cloud. The sciences of physics and astronomy tell us that what we’re looking at is a nursery of stars. (More images and more details are at this link.) Gases are being compressed and compacted here and nuclear fusion is sparking and bringing forth bright new spheres of light and energy which will shine for billions of years, like our own Sun. What planets might they light, what frozen or perhaps boiling vistas on strange and beautiful worlds that human eyes will never see?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers
the moon and stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

When I was younger, there was a very difficult-to-resolve conflict here. Continue reading Region N11 of Large Magellanic Cloud (and Psalm 8)

The Cinch Review

The Parable of the Bad-Ass Good Samaritans

parable of the bad-ass good SamaritansOh, Jesus: if only You could sue. From the Associated Press: NYC cabbie mistakenly beaten by good Samaritans.

Police said a cab driver who tried to take a purse from a woman fare beater was beaten by a group of good Samaritans who thought they were seeing a robbery. Police said it happened Saturday morning near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal when four woman[sic], who had been club-going, got into a fight with the cab driver over the fare. Continue reading The Parable of the Bad-Ass Good Samaritans