This hymn, in the Sanctification section of Lutheran Service Book, reminds us that Christ is our one hope and the only hope of all the world. The text is by Georgia Harkness (1891-1974), and American theologian and the first woman to teach in an American seminary. The tune, EIRENE, is by Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879), a British hymn-writer and composer of hymn tunes.
Hope of the world, Thou Christ of great compassion; Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. Save us, Thy people, from consuming passion, Who by our own false hopes and aims are spent.
This hymn is about the Hope of the World, Jesus. He is given that title by St. Paul in Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” We also read in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The goal of this hymn, then is to point us to the hope we have in Christ, the one who has great compassion on us to speak to us and heal the wounds caused by placing our trust in false hopes.
Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven, Bringing to hungry souls the bread of life, Still let Thy Spirit unto us be given To heal earth’s wounds and end our bitter strife.
Jesus calls himself the “bread of life” many times in John chapter 6. He is our greatest food and feeds us with Himself in the Lord’s Supper. Through this great gift of God we are given forgiveness, life, and salvation as the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our faith and live as His holy people here on Earth.
Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways, Showing to wandering souls the path of light, Walk Thou beside us lest the tempting byways Lure us away from Thee to endless night.
We pray in the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer “And lead us not into temptation.” Not only does Jesus not lead us into temptation, He walks with us through each temptation, for he was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin. Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) who shows us the path we are to take and gently leads us back when we stray.
Hope of the world, who by Thy cross didst save us From death and dark despair, from sin and guilt, We render back the love Thy mercy gave us; Take Thou our lives and use them as Thou wilt.
“Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” So begins the third stanza of Rock of Ages (LSB 761). All that we have is a gift from God, won for us on the cross of Christ and given to us in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word. There is no greater gift we can give back to God than that which He first gave to us, and so we return to Him our thanks and praise. Our very life is a gift from God, and so we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) to Him and in service to our neighbor.
Hope of the world, O Christ, o’er death victorious, Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain, We would be faithful to Thy Gospel glorious. Thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign!
The wonderful Good Friday hymn Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle (LSB 454) begins the fourth stanza like this, “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph.” Jesus’s death on the cross was not merely a symbolic act, but is both the means by which he saved us from our sins and the sign we use to remind us of His great victory. We then pray that Christ would make us faithful to the Gospel, sure of the hope we have because of Christ. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Note: The line “Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain” calls to mind a story of Constantine the Great. He had a vision of a Chi-Rho, which are the first two letters of the Greek word Christos and was an early Christian symbol of Christ. In the vision he also saw Latin words that said “In this sign you will conquer.” Constantine then used the Chi-Rho as his battle symbol.