Songs, spiritual and secular, to contemplate this Easter

(Photo: Unsplash/Michael Maasen)

This will be the strangest Easter that many of us have had – no gathering in cathedrals or small churches, just virtual online church, which wonderful as it is, is not the same as the real thing.

Most of all, I miss being with the Lord's people and singing together as one body – yes, even if there is an out of tune person behind me, and an opera singer in front, led by a worship leader who thinks he is Bono, I still miss the corporate singing.

As I was thinking about singing, a chain of songs came to mind – one leading to another that made me rejoice at Easter, I hope and pray you will find them as meaningful as I do.

I start with the great Easter hymns – whether it's Thine be the Glory or the more contemporary See What a Morning! There is nothing quite like singing of the resurrected King on Easter day.

And our world really needs song. Did you see the wonderful picture of the thousands of poor Brazilians confined to their multi-storeys, leaning out of their windows and belting out in Portuguese "Because He lives I can face tomorrow!". What a wonderful Covid-19 song of hope!

On a different level, I was thinking of the Beatles when the Queen gave her address to the nation last weekend. From their Abbey Road album they have a little ditty: "Her majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say....".

What the Queen said was good for the nation and what many wanted to hear. But I was a little disappointed that her scriptwriters made sure she stayed away from where her father went the last time there was a major crisis that shut down the nation. King George called for a national day of prayer and a turning to God. I guess his daughter was not permitted that liberty – whatever her own desires.

From that same album, the Beatles also sang "and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make". This Easter I am so glad that this Karmic philosophy is so wrong! We get to take a love that is way beyond anything we could dream of – never mind make!

It is the love of the Father that sent the Son. It is the love of the Son that caused him to die and give himself for us. It is because of that love – and the resurrection that we have a hope beyond the grave. We have been thinking recently about Job and how, even without knowing Christ, he had a hope in a resurrected Saviour, being certain that he would see him with his own eyes.

"I know that my redeemer lives and in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25)

It reminded my of another old song and Garth Hewitt singing "may you live to dance on your own grave...may you live to boogie all night long". 

Or if you are of a more classical bent, just listen to "I know my Redeemer liveth" from Handel's Messiah. Spine tingly joyful! 

But that then sent me on in my journey to a wonderful conversation between Joni Eareckson Tada and Nancy Guthrie talking about suffering, healing and the hope of eternity. What stunned me was Joni talking about how the glory of heaven would not be for her a renewed body (Joni is a paraplegic) but getting to see Christ and sharing fully in Christ without the restraints of sin.

Which led me on to another song based upon the letters of the Samuel Rutherford hymn, The Sands of Time Are Sinking. The whole hymn is wonderful poetry but here are a couple of verses – the first and the last. 

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I've sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes;
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel's land.

The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel's land.

This Easter, we need to look away from our poor, sick world and look to the Lamb, who brings healing for the nations. We need to see the glory.

This week another couple of songs also came to mind because of the death of the 81-year-old Bill Withers. Ain't No Sunshine is not about Christ but it expresses the sentiment well. There is no light in this world of darkness without Christ. Likewise his song Lean on Me is not about Christ, but it could be, with its memorable lyrics: "Lean on me, when you're not strong, I'll be your help, I'll help you carry on."

We used that when we were on camp with some young people from a deprived background; they got it totally. We all need somebody to lean on.

When I think of Christ, it makes me want to sing. Again, although not a Christian (as far as we know) Leonard Cohen expressed this idea beautifully in his You Got Me Singing:

You got me singing even though the news is bad....
You got me singing even though it all looks grim..
You got me singing the Hallelujah hymn.

One final stop in this musical journey. We sang William Cowper's There is a Fountain Filled with Blood at Good Friday virtual church and it moved me to tears, not least the last stanza:

When this poor, lisping, stamm'ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing Thy pow'r to save:
I'll sing Thy pow'r to save,
I'll sing Thy pow'r to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing Thy pow'r to save.

Happy Easter! Let's sing His power to save!

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at