Monday, February 19, 2007

5. The feeding of the 5,000

This even longer hymn was written soon after the Feeding of the 4,000 one, when I was preparing a sermon of my own on the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6. The process of writing the hymn made me conscious of how vastly different these two miracles are, though many critics regard them as "doublets." Since even the former feeding raised eucharistic thoughts, I couldn't resist tying the latter miracle in with the Lord's Supper - especially since John very pointedly observes that it took place at about the time of the Passover!

O Jesus, Passover of God
And Branch of royal David’s rod,
With one accord we hail you king,
And your high-priestly praise we sing.

The crowd perceived your kingly might
When you did wonders in their sight;
Yet in this feast we, too, behold
The meek Redeemer, long foretold.

Five thousand ran to watch you heal
The sick, and found instead a meal.
Two fish, five loaves untouched by yeast
Became a lavish Paschal feast.

God’s Son and sacrificial Lamb,
Begotten of the great I AM,
In you God’s pow’r, for all our good,
Unites with mortal flesh and blood.

The pow’r to make, the will to feed,
Unite in you who shared our need;
In you God’s right to punish sin
Joins grace to gather sinners in.

Anointed by the Holy Ghost,
You have the right to play the host,
And celebrate at festal board
Jacob’s captivity restored.

As shadows fly before the day,
The paschal custom flies away
Before this Lamb, whose flesh and blood
Are now a life-restoring food.

Passover Lord, we humbly see
How, in time’s fullness, you were free
To institute this feast anew
And show its meaning to be you.

No purse or pocket could provide
A meal sufficient to divide
Among your guests; yet, undismayed,
You seated them, took bread, and prayed.

Piece after piece, till all were filled,
You handed out, and none was spilled.
You would not have the leavings left,
Tho’ they took up twelve baskets’ heft.

At this, the people knew and feared:
God’s promised Prophet had appeared,
Like Moses; yes, and more than he,
Your Passover sets all men free.

The one gave manna in the wild;
The second came, in mercy mild,
Your very flesh and blood to give
That all who eat of it may live.

Life for the world comes from this Bread,
Giv'n into death to raise the dead;
Life, from the death of sin and guilt,
Pours through the Paschal blood you spilt.

Your flesh gives life abundantly,
Springing to immortality.
Your loaves and fish fed many men;
Your flesh feeds many more again.

No fragment could you bear to lose;
Still less, the children you did choose.
You will not leave us in our need,
Whom you have done so much to feed!

This wondrous miracle makes plain
That all your promises remain,
Through death or aught that life can send,
Ample for all, world without end.

And now, your sacrifice complete,
Sin and the grave beneath your feet,
O Lamb, at this your Paschal board,
We dare to claim you as our Lord.

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