Notes and commentary on hymn
Lord Christ, your throne.
Eric Graef, a church musician in California, mentioned that he was searching for songs and hymns
to support a sermon series on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
In response, I sketched this hymn text, based on the book's first chapter.
Adjusting prose to the strictness of the metrical hymn is tricky.
Fortunately, this chapter contains two substantial quotations from
the more poetic form of the Psalms (45 and 102) so that helps!
The tune Finlandia sprang to mind
as approximating the line-lengths of some of the Psalm lines;
the tune also has the gravitas, seriousness and confidence to match the spirit of the chapter.
For use in a stand-alone hymn, it seemed better to invert the structure of the chapter.
Accordingly this three verse hymn starts with metrical versions of its two Psalm quotations
(one hymn verse each)
then uses its third, concluding verse to summarise the opening of the chapter.
- Verse 1
Heb. 1:8-9 quotes from Psalm 45.
For this hymn, I pulled in a couple of other lines from that Psalm.
The verb "ride" comes from other lines in the Psalm,
and also brings to mind the humble Palm Sunday events of the King's entry into his city.
This line is shamelessly adapted from the hymn "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds".
It is also a foretaste of themes that will emerge later in the epistle.
- Verse 2
Heb. 1:10-12 quotes from Psalm 102.
Across lines 1-3 are God's creative and sustaining acts past, present and future.
My inner scientist loved the creation aspect of this portion of the Psalm
and the writer's use of it in Hebrews.
God is Lord of everything, and that includes both of nature and of our understanding of it
by scientific research.
Hence inclusion of the reference to the nuclear fusion at the heart of a star's working,
and also the casting of this line in the present tense, as stars are still being created.
The "when you shake the heavens" phrase,
while not directly in the psalm quotation from Heb. 1,
nevertheless maintains end-times theology, using Heb. 12,
itself originating from Haggai 2.
The human "decay to dust" understanding is itself transformed by a return to Christ.
The "beacon" metaphor is one of light, resonating with the "stars" in previous lines
and helping to bridge into the "radiance" that opens the next verse.
- Verse 3
The opening of Hebrews shares ideas in common with the opening of John's gospel,
so this verse includes ideas from there.
The opening chapter of Hebrews is about contrasting Jesus with the angels.
This line reflects that.
The "sacrament and story" idea comes from a couple of hymns by my hymnwriting colleague
Timothy Dudley Smith.
God is so way, way beyond our knowing, that sacrament and story are sometimes
the most meaningful way to encounter him.
The hymn's final line has a subtle reference back to its opening line.
The opening "ages", which we subconsciously regard (rightly or wrongly) as humanly measurable,
are here transformed into divine eternity: "changed from glory into glory".