Songwriting and Theology – Cosmic Scope of Salvation

This week in Songwriting and Theology we are reading through a collection of texts (Orthodox Holy Week Text) taken again from the Orthodox church’s celebration of Holy Week. Specifically we are looking at texts for Holy Saturday.  The day between Jesus crucifixion (Good Friday) and his Resurrection on the third day (Easter Sunday).

The imagination of the Orthodox led them to wonder at the state of Christ on Saturday and to connect this Day with his ‘harrowing’ of Hell.  Looking at these texts gives us a good opportunity to meditate on the cosmic scope of our salvation.  Often our worship songs tend to dwell in our own personal experiences of salvation.  This is important and often the easiest place from which to write but…

Dr. Ruth says,

” I think that envisioning this larger cosmic backdrop can accentuate the awe we feel toward God as we realize the scope of what we have experienced and of what God has done for us. This awe leads to a heightened gratitude, praise, and adoration. In other words, the worshiper can be carried to a new intensity of worship by the profoundness of the words of the worship song. Moreover, and even more importantly, God is worshiped rightly by reciting the grand scope of what he has accomplished through Jesus Christ.”

Here is an example from the reading:

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

Do you have any favorite worship songs that you think do this well?  Laying out the cosmic scope of our salvation?  Portraying the images of Christ’s defeat of death, devil, and hell?  One of my favorites is vs.3 in “Praise the Savior.”

The assignment for this week: Drawing inspiration from how the Orthodox texts speak of Christ’s descent into hell and subsequent resurrection as a kind of climatic battle or ravaging of hell and death, write one stanza that likewise portrays Christ’s descent or resurrection as a cosmic triumph for humanity.

In a turn from the usual battle images tied to Christ’s victory over death and hell I tried to connect the themes of eating, food, and life with the images of deaths devouring and Christ being the ultimate food of resurrection.  A hymn for communion on Easter?

Death tasted hope in Christ’s last breath
and choked on its first fruits
For Death had longed to swallow down
the Bread of life and light

Death opened wide its ravaging mouth,
And took the Savior in
Death bore down with lawful fangs
And broke its jaw on love

Death gulped for darkness in its death-throes
And gasped its very last
The Victorious Food of God
Would feed the grave no more.

Bread of Life and Light and Love
lead us from the hungry grave
to your table for the Feast.

(c) 2011 Bruce Benedict

4 thoughts on “Songwriting and Theology – Cosmic Scope of Salvation

Add yours

  1. Hey Bruce,

    I’m with David: this is great imagery.

    I bet this class has been huge for your songwriting. The only complaint I have is that it doesn’t seem Dr. Ruth is ever going to address the music side of songwriting. People act as if songs are just a collection of words, but the magic of song happens in the way the music and lyrics combine. You tell Dr. Ruth that if he doesn’t devote at least one day to the music of song, he’ll need to change the course name to “Lyrics and Theology” or “Poetry and Theology.”



    PS – Think about changing the phrase “sleepy grave” to something that fits the more active, battle-like imagery of the verses. Or maybe pick up on some of the swallow/food themes with something like “hungry grave.”

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