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The Chalice
Friday, May 15 2020

“Alleluia, He Is Coming”
by Martha Butler

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming down the road.

Alleluia, He is coming.
Alleluia, He is here.
Alleluia, He is coming.
Alleluia, He is here.

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-weeping.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-weeping for my sins.

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-dying.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-dying on the cross.

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-rising.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-rising from the grave.

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming on the clouds.

A frequent image in literature and music is that of sight, of clarity of vision, of beholding with so much more than merely our physical eyes and one song that is unashamedly explicit in its use of this recurrent image is Martha Butler’s “Alleluia, He Is Coming.” Simple and familiar, easy to learn, easy to sing, yet sometimes simple and easy are best. But it is also a song charged with meaning, a song about you and me and the way in which we behold our Lord Jesus Christ coming, weeping, dying, and rising, a song about the fact that in the resurrection the kingdom of God has been inaugurated in a new way and you and I are to be part of that kingdom.

What we behold is a glimpse of glory and, just when we think that we understand, we discover that it is only a preview of something more glorious that for now must elude our grasp. It’s a bit like the overture to a Broadway musical that announces briefly the major themes to come. It is to apprehend for just a moment that such seeing is what we are made for, but not quite yet. Such seeing is a gift, a vision that has the power to alter who one is on the inside as with cleansed sight one beholds the Lord coming, weeping, dying, and rising as part of an eternal present—“He is coming; he is here.” Alleluia! At each moment our response is one of awe and admiration, praise and thanksgiving, humility and worship.

My Christian friends, the neo-pagan, post-modern secularist culture and intellectual academe seek to limit our vision and diminish our gifts: what the world of fact can neither see nor corroborate must therefore not be. What a suffocating view of existence as one is reduced to a mere accumulation of information. But this short hymn invites us to look up and discover that eternity remains resonant in the present and that the living reality of what we see is given unto us by grace and thus assert truly that “the concrete is not the last word or the ultimate arbiter of what is real.” As Bishop Tom Wright points out so poetically and perceptively in Christians at the Cross, “If you want to know what Christ’s death and resurrection mean, you have to hear the music, to listen not just to the tune which says he died and rose, but to the harmony which says ‘and this is what it means.’”

To look and behold Jesus coming—and here—is to see the one marked out as the rightful ruler of the world. With each repetition in the refrain, one has the overwhelming sense that the incarnate Lord comes first into history, then into our hearts, then, finally, at the end of time, he sets in place the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth. We may look up and see only through a glass dimly now, but even dimly it is God, paradoxically, in his fullness: incarnate, among us, crucified, risen, ascended, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, or as C. S. Lewis puts it “the glorifier and the glorified, Glory himself.”

When we look up and behold Jesus, we get the awesome sense that this is what we’ve longed for, that this is what we were created for: this clarity of vision and purity of sight. Fools will attempt to give us a reason for this; the wise dare not even make the attempt; because to behold our Lord and embrace the life-giving, truth-imparting Spirit he has sent us is what it means to be truly human. To look up and behold Jesus coming, weeping, dying, and rising is to have the barren deserts of our lives irrigated by a living water so that the promise of eternal joy becomes the certain hope of our lives and the Lord of all becomes the cornerstone of our existences. “Alleluia, he is coming. Alleluia, he is here.”

-Fr. John+

Posted by: Rev. John Morrison AT 09:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
St. John's Episcopal Church
12 Prospect St. | Huntington, NY 11743 | PH: (631) 427-1752
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