A Hymn With Meaning

This week I pay homage to my grandfather. His birthday occurred during Lent. His favorite hymn was always “The Old Rugged Cross”. He was a regular church attendee, but when it was time to sing this song, you could count on him singing it with gusto.

My mom sang in the choir so I spent the time with my grandparents in their pew. My great aunt Margareth always sat with them. I remember her “twiddling her thumbs” and that always fascinated me. My great-grandfather used to sit with them, but when he became disabled, he remained at home.

I recall proudly holding a hymnal to sing. The hymnals in our church did not contain music, just the words to the songs. I was young and unable to read. I always sang, but I made up the words – sort of what they sounded like to me. Wow, was I surprised when I could finally read the words!

I did some research on my grandfather’s favorite hymn. The man who wrote it, never set out to be a hymn writer. He ran a farm to support his family after his father died. It took years for this song to come together.

The idea for a song about the cross was heavy on George Bennard’s mind. He loved the idea of the cross and tried to put down his thoughts on paper. To him the cross was the center of Christianity. It was what held the Christian religion together.

Here let me say in the Protestant faith we usually use an empty cross to remind us that Jesus rose from the dead, while our brothers and sisters of the Roman Catholic faith use the crucifix with Jesus hanging on the cross. Either way it works to remind us of its significance.

One source noted that “the cross is far more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.” When I refer to the gospel. I am referring to the four gospels in the New Testament. The New Testament is all about the life and works of Jesus. Much of it is in his own words. If you are new to Christianity, I suggest you begin by reading the gospel of John. John was one of Jesus’ favorite disciples. Just pick up a Bible and begin to read. The answers are all there.

Bennard began by seeing the cross and Christ inseparably. “It was like seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form, and act out the meaning of redemption.”

The words to his famous song did not come easily. It took more than three years to bring them together. Then, there was music to add. Somehow the words and the music go so beautifully together. I remember my grandfather frequently had tears running down his face when he sang that song. Now it brings me to tears as well.

I include some of the words to this well-known song for you to ponder over. Take the words to heart. Hopefully the next time you see a cross it will bring you fond memories.

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.


So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it some day for a crown.

This is merely the first verse and the refrain. There are three more verses which I would encourage to look up. You can find a hymnal or simply look it up on the Internet. It is the story of how Christ died to save us from our sins. During this season of Lent, think about the sacrifice God made giving up his one and only son. If you have not regularly attended church, I invite you to give it a try. It is wonderful to be with a group of people who have the same values that you do. I treasure my church family. You can join that family easily – just stop in to worship.

Ann Swanson is a Russell resident. Email her at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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