"And can it be that I should gain. . . " This great Charles Wesley hymn will always be a part of my life, especially so during this Lent Season. I remember the resounding chorus sung by students and participants at the Estes Chapel in Asbury Seminary. I could almost feel the angels of heaven singing with us. I would close my eyes and sing with all my might all the lines of the hymn, and sense my whole being soaring a few feet above the ground. This hymn brings me to a visceral experience of God's glory and splendor.
Last Sunday of March, I went to church with a longing in my heart for a meaningful encounter with God's beauty, hoping that one of the songs or hymns would touch me in a very tactile way. This is the Lent Season. I wanted to feel God's presence. I needed to see His majesty in the palm of my hands. I wanted to bow down before the feet of our Creator and actually smell His goodness surrounding the church sanctuary. I wanted to say with the Psalmist: "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) And praise His holy name! He came and move my heart in a very physical way. He used a song that the congregation sang during the morning church service. Let me back track a little and explain the situation.
You see, that last Sunday of March, I went to Fong Shan Free Methodist Church. This is a Chinese church here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Most of the hymns sang here are not the ones I am familiar with nor the ones written by Charles Wesley. It is always a struggle for me to emotionally connect with the church liturgy. What makes the experience more difficult is that everything happens in Mandarin Chinese. By the time I translate the song or prayer in my mind, I am already ten seconds behind the liturgical flow. However, that last Sunday of March, God spoke to me through a Mandarin song. 我的心,你要称颂耶和华 / 不可忘记他的恩惠 . This is a song based on Psalm 103. "Oh my soul, do not forget all His benefits." I came home from that church service with a full heart. I could still taste the flavor of God's goodness in my mouth. Bless the Lord, oh my soul!
This Easter Sunday, I do not know which hymns will the Kaohsiung churches sing for the Day of Christ's Ressurrection. One thing I remember, from growing up as a second generation Free Methodist in Butuan City Free Methodist Church, Butuan City, Philippines, is that we always include one hymn from the many selection for the Easter morning service. This is the hymn "Up From The Grave He arose." It makes me smile to remember all the church members bellowing with a loud resounding crescendo, singing the last line of the chorus, "He arose, he arose. hallelujah, Christ arose!" Happy resurrection, everyone! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!