Here is a death (website only)

Festivals and Seasons:
Authors & translators:
Brown, Andrew

crucifixion-bent-crossHere is a death, a body stretched between
nails that are hammered into human flesh;
here life was mocked, was so misunderstood,
now deep humiliation on a cross. 

Here in this death God, who is life, now dies
and the wide world waits, awe-struck in its pain;
here rock is shaken, even light withdraws;
am I unmoved and, careless, pass it by? 

Here in this death God’s deep grief is revealed,
tears for my life, my failures and my fears.
Here there is mercy; can I fully grasp
the love that’s shown for me between these nails? 

Here in this death God gives and gives again,
and, in response, I worship and adore,
worship and serve the mystery of life -
God who has died to bring new life to birth. 

Words: © Andrew Brown – February 2023

Suggested tune: St. Agnes (Langran) (StF 235; H&P 608i)


Ideas for use

The suggested tune for this hymn (St. Agnes (Langran)) brings a great sense of dignity to the words and, arguably, even a tone of questioning and reflection that closely matches the text. 

Consider inviting worshippers to spend some time reading the words in silence before starting to sing, absorbing the hymn’s questions and extending its quality of meditation. You may wish to find images of the crucifixion to look at before and after the singing of the hymn, perhaps as the tune is played over quietly. 

More information 

There are perhaps echoes here of Isaac Watts’s great hymn When I survey the wondrous cross (StF 287), not least in the final verse where Watts’s wonder at “love so amazing, so divine” is here described as “the mystery of life”, and the demands made on us in response are here defined as worship and service. In the earlier verses, Andrew, like Watts, also articulates questions – seeks the meanings – that arise from the awfulness of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Both hymns express empathy, ask questions, and grapple with incomprehension and personal feelings of inadequacy. However, Andrew’s text adds a degree of uncompromising brutality to the moment of Jesus’s crucifixion (“nails that are hammered into human flesh”). He also focuses on two other key aspects of the event. In verse 2, we are reminded of the cosmic shock that takes place as Jesus dies – an earthquake (Matthew 27: 50-51) and the darkness that covers the land (Mark 15:33). If even the earth’s crust and the natural light respond to the significance of the moment, then how can we be unmoved “and, careless, pass it by?”  This is both "a [single] death" amongst many – yet another Roman "example" to those they sought to control; but also the culmination of a life imbued with deep meaning.

Here, too, is evidence of God’s grief (v.3); not a God who turns his face away but one who will not avert their gaze from this revelation of unwavering love and whose tears are not only for the dying Christ but also for us – a profound sadness at our failures and fears. Echoes here of God looking over the actions of humankind before the great flood (Genesis 6:11 ff.). Yet God “gives and gives again”, absolutely determined to birth new life that echoes God’s own love revealed in all of creation. Once, that love was signalled with a rainbow in the sky; here, on a cross thrust into the trembling earth.

Andrew Brown has been a Methodist Local Preacher for over forty years and is based in Yorkshire. He says: “I became interested in writing hymn poems in 2003 and am keen to provide words that question and challenge, while remaining true to the good news of God’s love for each individual.”

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