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15 April 2018

Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

Text: 7th cent. Latin; trans. by John Mason Neale, 1818-1866
Music: Henry Purcell; adapt. by Ernest Hawkins
Tune: WESTMINSTER ABBEY, Meter: 87.87.87

The history of the construction of Westminster Abbey is fascinating. It is a story wrought with dedication and devotion. The first church on the site is believed to date back to the establishment of a Benedictine monastery in the mid-seventh century. The Abbey was later constructed by King Edward the Confessor, who sought to re-endow and greatly enlarge the monastery near his palace. It was consecrated on December 28, 1065. Edward died days later. Since then the Abbey has had continual refurbishments and additions, resulting in what some describe as an eclectic mixture of architectural styles. The Normans added structures of their own, most of which were later torn down and replaced with a variety of Gothic-style features built from the 13th through the 18th centuries. Interestingly, though, the ground plan of the Abbey remains original. In a sense, Edward laid the foundation of the Abbey.

The western towers of the Abbey, still the highest of their kind in England, were completed in 1740--two years after John Wesley's Aldersgate experience. Wesley is widely recognized as the founder of Methodism. The history and traditions of the Abbey were already well established, though. A generation before Wesley, Henry Purcell had composed music to glorify the God. Purcell was intimately involved in the music of the Abbey. At various stages of his life, he tuned the organ and served as its organist. He is buried beneath the organ--at its foundation.

Long before King Edward or Henry Purcell or John Wesley, an anonymous writer prepared a hymn written in Latin. Many years after they lived, those words were translated to English. Today they are most often sung to the tune Westminster Abbey, written by Purcell.

King Edward is associated with the foundations of Westminster Abbey. Henry Purcell established many musical foundations that glorify God to this day. John Wesley founded the Methodist movement in the shadows of the Abbey's great towers. But this week's featured hymn, Christ is Made the Sure Foundation, directs us to the foundation that ties all of these together. It is the only foundation that really counts. That foundation is Christ. Consider the foundations of your faith as you read these words.

1. Christ is made the sure foundation, 
Christ the head and cornerstone; 
chosen of the Lord and precious, 
binding all the church in one; 
holy Zion's help forever, 
and her confidence alone.
2. To this temple, where we call thee, 
come, O Lord of Hosts, today! 
With thy faithful loving-kindness 
hear thy people as they pray, 
and thy fullest benediction 
shed within its walls alway.
3. Here vouchsafe to all thy servants 
what they ask of thee to gain; 
what they gain from thee forever 
with the blessed to retain, 
and hereafter in thy glory 
evermore with thee to reign.
4. Laud and honor to the Father, 
laud and honor to the Son, 
laud and honor to the Spirit, 
ever three and ever one; 
one in might and one in glory, 
while unending ages run.

May we all know and rely fully upon the sure foundation, Christ, the head and cornerstone.

God Bless You!

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