During communion on Sunday June 1, Jaylene Johnson led us in a new take on the 19th century hymn, “Nothing but the Blood.” Composed by the baptist preacher and prolific hymn writer Robert Lowry (1826-1899), in Jaylene’s hands the verses of the hymn were given an almost Taize-like contemplative feel. With Mike Penner on violin, Davis Plett on guitar, and Larry Campbell on bass, this version runs over six minutes, and provided a remarkably gentle backdrop to our sharing of communion.
Contemporary hymnody and worship music has tended not to draw quite so directly on the language of the “blood of Jesus,” though I suspect Lowry would have simply responded that it is a powerfully biblical image; after all, when it was originally published, it included a heading which referenced Hebrews 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” And as you listen to these words, you quickly realize that in the composer’s hands, “blood” is synonymous with the “grace” and the “love” of Jesus.
Accompanied by the sound of the creaking floorboards as people walked forward to receive communion, and by the words of the communion administrants – “the body of Christ…” “the blood of Christ…” – the meditative quality of this setting is made all the more poignant.
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