In 1691 a semi-opera, titled “King Arthur,” written by Henry Purcell and John Dryden, was released and performed. One of the songs, “Fairest Isle” imagines, Venus, the goddess of love, choosing the Isle of Britain as a better place to dwell than her native Cyprus. The words declare;
“Fairest Isle, all Isles Excelling,
Seat of Pleasures, and of Loves;
Venus here, will choose her Dwelling,
And forsake her Cyprian Groves.”
You may never have heard of the semi-opera “King Arthur” but, if you regularly attend a church that sings hymns composed by Charles Wesley, you will be familiar with the words of one his most famous compositions;
“Love Divine, all Loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven to Earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble Dwelling,
All Thy faithful Mercies crown.”
Wesley took the metre and the idea of the song “Fairest Isles” and pictured that, rather than Venus leaving her native land to inhabit the Isles of Britain, such was an act of love that was enacted through the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The hymn pictures how Jesus chose to leave the heights of heaven and inhabit the human hearts of those needing salvation, in order that their lives may be completely transformed by His love. That theme is reinforced in the hymns final verse;
“Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.”
Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about the sermon on the mount. Our sermon, “The Impossible Dream” can be found here. This week, like many other churches who follow the Lectionary, we will be celebrating “Transfiguration Sunday.”
Transfiguration Day focuses on events recorded in Luke 9:28-36, in which Jesus travels up a mountain with a select group of His disciples and is there “Transfigured” before them. In a blaze of glory, He is seen speaking with Moses and Elijah. This mountain top experience was a moment of transformation for the disciples. They literally saw Jesus in a new light!
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3, writes of how, when Moses came down from meeting with God on the mountain, Moses was so transformed by the presence of God that he had to cover his face so that others could even look at him!
Paul speaks of how because of Christ's work, we have unprecedented access to the love of God. In verse 18 Paul writes “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
We are all “Works in progress.” Whenever we spend time in prayer or bible study, whenever we can attend a worship service, whenever we perform some act of kindness or public service, then we are opening our lives up to being transformed by the love of God.
Having mentioned Wesley's hymn, it would surely be remiss not to share a version for us to enjoy. This one, sung to the Welsh tune composed by Rowland Hugh Pritchard called“Hyfrydol,” is from a worship service at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.