by Candace Arthuria
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
What in the world does that mean? To the unenlightened, it sounds like something out of a vampire movie. But that anthem was once a staple—a long time ago in a church far away. Whatever happened to the partnership of Scripture and song? Hymns are historic. As supplements to The Lord’s Prayer and 23rd Psalm, they helped to lay the foundation of the church and shape the Christian walk. Unfortunately, the old songs have given way to more modern expressions of worship. In 2022, I am overjoyed whenever I hear “Near The Cross.” It has become such a rarity that old-school church folks quiver at the sound of the opening chords.
Fifteen years ago, I suggested that my friend obtain permission from her pastor to explain the Scriptural references before her choir sang. She confessed that the songs did not contain any references to Scripture and asked me to remind her of the hymns we used to sing. In our sixties, remembrances of things past are fast becoming few and far between. It is now that I am forced to admit what no Christian ever should. After years of suppressing what some might call apostasy, I find myself acknowledging the quiet part out loud. I do not like church, anymore.
To be clear, I do not claim to be anything other than a lay believer in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have always taken issue with the use of the word “death,” even though Jesus himself did not. To me, it is a misnomer, inadequately describing the most wrongful persecution and cruelest of capital punishments ever inflicted upon the Innocent. “They crucified my Savior and nailed Him to the cross.” When I read the various accounts, I am transported to Gethsemane and subsequently kneeling at the cross on Calvary. That is why I have always loved Communion, my monthly opportunity to share with the church the agonizing sacrifice of our Lord. From my youth, it has drawn me nearer. Obviously, the Crucifixion is not a cause for celebration. Jesus instructed His disciples to partake of the elements to keep His memory alive. “This do in remembrance of Me.” It is the Resurrection, His victory over the grave, that fulfills our hope of eternal life.
Historically, churches reserved Wednesday nights for Bible Study and Prayer Meeting. Yet, rarely have they garnered more than a piddling percentage of the membership. So, somewhere along the line, someone came up with a more academic description of the services. I take no issue with that, except that apathy by any other name is still apathy. I am not a statistician and I don’t have any provable numbers, but I do not believe that Christian Education has garnered more than the faithful few who frequented Bible Study. So like a good student, I decided to pay closer attention, conducting personal, homemade, unscientific focus groups. My subjects were upstanding Christians and those who play them on TV.
Of particular interest was a pretty Sunday School teacher who appeared as a guest on a daytime talk show. Without warning, the host put her on the spot and asked her to recite the books of the Bible. Naturally, she responded “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.” But when pressed to continue, the Sunday School teacher was stumped. I would have taken an educated guess, asking myself who led the children of Israel to the Promised Land after the death of Moses. That’s how you get to Joshua. Memorizing the order of the books might be a noble gesture, an effective brain teaser, but it has no relevance if you cannot connect the dots. Sunday School is pleasant. We need more of it. But there should come a time when mature Christians aspire to get off the milk bottle and set their sights on a deeper understanding of the faith. (See the letters of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.) And no, Saul of Tarsus was not one of the twelve. If you didn’t know that, perhaps you should ask yourself why.
I knew a preacher of the Gospel who was proud to dismiss the Old Testament. He said Jesus wasn’t born until the New. Yet, I am willing to bet that for most of his life, he sent and received Christmas cards quoting Isaiah. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…” The Christ Child was prophesied long before He was manifested in the flesh. If you need another example, look to Jesus’ own words. “For had you believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.” Now, how in the world can you discount God’s Testament? “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”
Unfortunately, too many Christians live in fear of the Big Bible Words. But if you know that Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, charged with Israel’s priesthood, and that Moses and Aaron were Levites, then the book of Leviticus doesn’t sound so scary anymore. If you live in New York, you’re a New Yorker. Corinth, a Corinthian. That seems simple enough to me. Same thing with Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul wrote two epistles (letters) to the people of Thessalonica. Rome? Romans. Pretty easy when you think about it.
There is an urgent need for Christian Education, or whatever else you might happen to call it. I know church members who desire to learn the Scriptures, but they have no idea where to start. So, they settle for weekly sermons and feel-good music. Yet deep down, they know that it isn’t enough. Thirty years ago, there was no access to the Internet. People had to carry their Bibles with them. But nowadays, it is easier than ever to delve into the Word. You can Google the Scriptures and anything else you want. Despite all the negativity, technology has its perks. Use it for a good and Godly purpose. It is time to incorporate the Word into our ministries, banquets, anniversaries, and fashion shows. I propose a Christian Academy where folks without high school diplomas can fire up their tablets and sit next to college grads on a level playing field. What a fellowship, indeed. As you can see, I will never let go of the hymns. Consider sharing this one with the younger generations. It is ageless. Hear and understand the only basis for our hope.
The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation
By water and the Word
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
Candace Arthuria began her career in Corporate Communications and currently writes short fiction, essays, and occasional poetry. Her work is multicultural and intergenerational, expanding across a broad range of genres. She continues to build on her initial collection, “Very Short Stories for Very Busy People.” Her second compilation, “DIVERSITY: Stories Behind The Stained Glass” is currently in progress. Candace has published with the International Women’s Writing Guild, the Teaneck Public Library, Agape Review, Calliope, and Friday Flash Fiction. For editorial services, you may reach her at williams07666[at]gmail.com