The Dangers of Re-Writing a Hymn

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I sat down today in the office thinking about Good Friday, trying to find some really good and interesting songs to include in our Good Friday service.

Good Friday is the most difficult service on the church calendar. It's literally a night to remember death and sacrifice and sadness. As a worship leader, the big challenge, practically speaking, with Good Friday is finding songs that don't have much hope in them. If that sounds weird, it should, because every other day of the year I'm all about emphasizing hope. But for Good Friday, we are trying to let people walk through the deep awful realities of Jesus' death on our behalf.

The disciples closest to Jesus were filled with the most hopeless despair imaginable at the time. They might have been able to sing, "See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down, did e're such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?", but they wouldn't have finished that thought with, "O the wonderful cross."

Not yet.

So we intentionally design the service to sit people right in the middle of that, to remember and appreciate the sacrifice Christ made for us.

Thinking about all of this, I was searching through some hymns that were themed on the crucifixion. I landed on one called "Alone" by Ben H. Price, written in 1914. I've never heard this song before, and I can't even find a great recording of it, but the words grabbed my attention, so I decided to try a little exercise of re-writing this hymn to a totally new melody.

Which was dangerous. Because I had to actually interact with these words, and ponder them, and sing them over and over in different ways with different chords.

And these words broke me. It's not Good Friday yet, but it feels like it, sitting here on a random Wednesday thinking about Jesus being more utterly alone on the cross than I can possible imagine.

Here are the words to the hymn. I might just make it out of this with a new arrangement, but even if I don't, I'm grateful to Ben H. Price for writing such beautiful words.

"It was alone the Savior prayed
In dark Gethsemane;
Alone He drained the bitter cup
And suffered there for me.

Refrain:
Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled, and died alone, alone.

It was alone the Savior stood

In Pilate's judgment hall;
Alone the crown of thorns He wore
Forsaken thus by all.

Alone upon the cross He hung

That others He might save
Forsaken then by God and man
Alone, His life he gave."

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