Posts Tagged ‘story’

The word story is a key word to understanding the post modernist generation.  Earlier generations had other words. I think the word for my generation was journey; everybody was on a journey and everything was a journey.

But journeys have given way to stories now.  Now everyone has their own story and life is a narrative. Your witness is your story; your upbringing is your story; your history is your story. Preaching has moved from exegesis or exhortation to story telling.

The King James Bible (1611) uses the word story only in two obscure passages in 2 Chronicles. The American Standard Version (1901) never uses the word story  in this way, but The Message ( 2002) uses the word story  161 times! 

Hymns are a place where the generations meet around the word story, not necessarily in the great anthems, but in some of the more populist hymns of the 19th century.  Here are some that you will probably recognize

Tell Me the Old, Old Story (1866) with lyrics by Katherine Hankey.

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”


Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Interestingly enough, she also wrote the words to I Love To Tell the Story.  “I love to tell the story of unseen things above . . . .pretty post modern—except for the word above!

Then there is Tell Me The Story of Jesus, written by Fanny Crosby around 1880:

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard

But one of my favorite hymns from my childhood which still occasionally surfaces is the rousing, almost dramatic  O Listen To Our Wondrous Story, sometimes titled What Did He Do?.  The words were written by James Gray around 1903, but, in this instance, the marriage of the words with the music by William Owen, a worker in the slate quarries of Wales in the mid-1800s, was what really made the hymn work.

I especially loved the antiphonal chorus, where the women sing, “Who saved us from eternal loss?” and before they even finish the question, the men are responding with the certain answer, “Who but the Son upon the Cross!”   As we most often sang it, the first questions were sung softly, with each succeeding question and answer a little louder, until the final triumphant response was full volume.

The final verse makes the question of story very personal: Will you surrender to the Savior, to his scepter humbly bow?   So journey and story meet in the certainty of Jesus and His Cross and the necessary response that it requires from me!

I love this song still:

O listen to our wondrous story,
Counted once among the lost;
Yet One came down from Heaven’s glory,
Saving us at awful cost!

No angel could His place have taken,
Highest of the high though he;
The loved One on the cross forsaken,
Was One of the Godhead three!

And yet this wondrous tale proceedeth,
Stirring heart and tongue aflame!
As our High Priest in Heav’n He pleadeth,
And Christ Jesus is His Name!

Will you surrender to this Savior?
To His scepter humbly bow?
You, too, shall come to know His favor,
He will save you, save you now.


Who saved us from eternal loss?
Who but God’s Son upon the cross?
What did He do?
He died for you!
Where is He now?
In heaven interceding!

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