Hymns at Easter: We sing the praise

Ascension Sunday 24 May 2020
'We sing the praise' by Norman Wallwork (STF 315)

The final hymn in this series moves us from the close of Easter onto the threshold of Pentecost. It is We sing the praise of Jesus (STF 315) by Norman Wallwork who is a well-known liturgist and hymn writer and in this hymn sets out in a simple form what we can believe about the Ascension of Jesus.

  • Jesus arrives in heaven as a triumphant conqueror of death and evil
  • We sing his praises with heaven-given joy
  • Jesus prays for us
  • We pray in expectation for the ‘living fire’
  • We are being prepared to worship in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.

The Ascension myth is a crucial transition stage in the development of the Christian understanding of God. We might remember the stories of Jesus. We may bow before the Cross. We marvel at the Resurrection but there is more going on than just historic events. The activity of God is not a good idea to be considered but an experience to be explored.

This is a special kind of exploration. It is the exploration of prayer. It is prayer based in the theology of love; for we are commanded to love God with all that we are and all that we have; not just believe in God. We know God through the love we are given and from Ascension Day we pray this prayer for all in the Church

Come Holy Spirit
Fill the hearts of your faithful people and
Kindle in them the fire of your love

It is this fire that can flame in our homes and our hearts. It is this fire which can re-create our devotion. A devotion that is not dependent on ‘what happens in church’. It is a loving of God which let’s each day be the Lord’s Day and witnesses ‘earth and heaven ring’ with the praises of God.

This reminds me of the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) from her poem Aurora Leigh

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees takes off his shoes
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

This hymn and the season it serves invites us to see the Church as she really is created to be – a priestly community open to the world, open to God and connecting the grace of heaven and the need of earth. Truly a Church of the Ascension.

Rev. John Rackley