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“The Power of the Cross”

TITLE: "The Power of the Cross"
AUTHORS: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
TUNE: POWER OF THE CROSS
COMPOSERS: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3085
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:32-44; Mark 15:21-32; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16b-24
TOPICS: cross; crucifixion; Easter; Holy Week; Good Friday; Holy Communion; redemption

Background

Julian Keith Getty was born December 16, 1974, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. His musical training began at age eleven on the guitar and flute, with later formal studies at Durham University and Tanglewood in Massachusetts. He continued his study in conducting, arranging, and orchestrating and was helped greatly in his career by Irish flautist James Galway. After success in the commercial entertainment industry, Getty now concentrates his efforts on writing modern church music.

Stuart Townend was born in 1963, the youngest of four children of a Church of England vicar in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. He began piano study at age seven and studied literature at the University of Sussex. He began writing songs and hymns at age twenty-two. He has been a successful song writer, arranger, worship leader, and publishing executive, as well as performer on piano, guitar, and banjo.

Getty and Townend have relocated to the U.S.A., where they remain busy as collaborators, recording new projects, touring, writing, arranging, performing, leading worship, and speaking at conferences. Getty is also a frequent collaborator with his wife, Kristyn.

Words

"The Power of the Cross" recalls the lyric style and content of many earlier hymns that offer a close depiction of the events of Good Friday, perhaps most notably "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." Stanza one takes us through the trial, torture, the road to Calvary, and the crucifixion. Stanza two reveals Christ crucified for us. Stanza three includes the darkening sky, the earthquake, Jesus' death, the torn curtain and the cry, "It is finished!" Stanza four proclaims our salvation and victory over death through Christ.

The hymn writers have said about this hymn:

"The Power of the Cross" is a meditation on the sufferings of Christ. Over the past couple of years, we have been working through the Apostles Creed and writing hymns teaching the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. The Creed teaches that "He suffered under Pontius Pilate," and in communion we are commanded to "remember his death 'til he comes." In the New Testament, Paul and the Apostles often preached and prayed in more detailed and visual ways about the cross, turning all of our senses to Christ's sufferings and their significance. Stuart and I considered how the reality of His sufferings should penetrate our worship services and were challenged by the need to explain the overwhelming significance and implications these have for our lives. In our congregational worship the sufferings of Christ have often only been given a surface glance, and it is hardly surprising that the theological meaning often remains confused.
This the power of the cross;
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath,
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Our hope is that the hymn, "The Power of the Cross," will be a resource to the church as a declaration of what we believe is a challenging reflection on Christ's sufferings and a powerful song for Easter or Communion services. It is also our hope that people will be challenged again by the wonder and the power of the Cross.

There are five Getty and Townend hymns in Worship & Song:

  • 3032, "Across the Lands" (simplified accompaniment in Accompaniment Edition)
  • 3085, "The Power of the Cross" (choral parts in Singers and Accompaniment Editions)
  • 3105, "In Christ Alone" (optional key change in Accompaniment Edition)
  • 3179, "The Risen Christ"
  • 3189, "There Is a Higher Throne"

Music

The opening two-bar phrase starts low on middle C, is repeated as a sequence on E, and concludes the first phrase with a descent back to D. That structure is repeated for the second phrase, yielding two arch forms for the verse. The refrain moves with longer notes at the phrase endings on the important words "power," "cross," "became," "us," "blame," and "cross." The entire hymn has been building from the opening middle C note to the climax on the highest note D, "We stand forgiven at the cross," affirming that the cross was not only the instrument of Jesus' death, but also the instrument leading to our salvation.

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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