“Discerning the Savior’s Death”

"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11.28)

     INTRO.: A song which is designed to help us examine ourselves as we eat of the bread and drink of the cup is "Discerning the Savior’s Death."  The text was written and the tune was composed both by David Norman Henderson, who was born on Feb. 18, 1925, at Dasher, GA, to David Noah Henderson and Minnie Lee Starling Henderson. At an early age, he moved to Miami, FL. His first interests in music were encouraged by his parents, and much instruction came from an older brother, Marvin; a sister-in-law, Eva Henderson; and a gospel preacher, J. P. Prevatt, who preached and taught singing schools throughout southern Georgia and in Florida. Also, he received great encouragement from his wife, Jean, and their four children, who with love and patience rendered untold assistance in testing and preparing his songs for print.

     Eight of Henderson’s songs were published by the Firm Foundation  with the assistance of Holland Boring Sr., and by Sacred Selections through the kindness of Ellis J. Crum. After that, Henderson formed his own music company, Songlight Publishers, and with Michael J. Schmidt produced a small hymnbook, Majestic Praise, in 1980. This song, copyrighted in 1977, is taken from that book. They also published a little booklet of Songs by Songlight in 1982, which includes the song as well. In his 1980 book Our Garden of Song, Gene C. Finley has a biography of Henderson and uses "Come Home, Father Calls," copyrighted in 1974, as the representative hymn by Henderson. The latter also appears in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Crum, the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons, and the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Flemming. For a number of years, Henderson made his living as a mail carrier.

     In addition to his music-related activities and his work, Henderson did some part-time preaching for many years, and helped to start three congregations in south Florida. Also, he served as a deacon and then an elder at the Harding St. church of Christ in Hollywood, FL., where he loved to sing, direct singing, and lead the children in songs. His death occurred on Dec. 1, 1986, due to a very sudden heart attack suffered at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, after he had finished mowing his lawn. Another of Henderson’s songs, "Life and Light" copyrighted in 1980 was used in Hymns for Worship Revised in 1995 with an arrangement made by one of the editors, R. J. Stevens. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the only ones I know of to have "Discerning the Savior’s Death" are Majestic Praise and Songs by Songlight.

     This song is designed to help Christians prepare their minds for partaking of the Lord’s supper.

I. Stanza 1 explains the purpose of the Lord’s supper
"On the Lord’s day by faith we meet, With hearts prepared His supper eat,
Keeping each soul in Him complete, Rightly discerning the Savior’s death."
 A. The term "Lord’s day" as used by writers in the early church is universally acknowledged by scholars to mean the first day of the week when Christians came together on a regular basis: Rev. 1.10
 B. An important purpose for which Christians came together on the first day of the week was to break bread or eat the Lord’s supper: Acts 20.7
 C. One function of the Lord’s supper is to help keep each soul complete by proclaiming the Lord’s death till He come: 1 Cor. 11.26

II. Stanza 2 explains the purpose of the bread
"Breaking the bread, His body seen, God’s only Son, two thieves between;
By His pierced side our hands are clean, Rightly discerning the Savior’s death."
 A. The bread represents the body of Christ: Matt. 26.26
 B. It reminds us how He hung on the cross between two thieves: Lk. 23.33
 C. It also reminds us how His side was pierced as He died to make us clean: Jn. 19.34

III. Stanza 3 explains the purpose of the cup
"Drinking the cup, His blood we see, Shed for our sins on Calvary,
Keeping this precious memory, Rightly discerning the Savior’s death."
 A. The cup represents the blood of Christ: Matt. 26.27-29
 B. The shedding of blood represents the fact of death, and Jesus died for our sins: 1 Cor. 15.3
 C. Thus, when we drink the cup, we do so in remembrance of Him: 1 Cor. 11.23-25

     CONCL.: In my experience, many congregations have fallen into a rut regarding the hymns that are sung before the Lord’s supper. The choice of suitable songs in many books is not really all that large to begin with, and it is easy to get into the habit of using the same ones over and over. Therefore, it is my personal opinion that we can always use more good new songs concerning the Lord’s supper to help us in "Discerning the Savior’s Death."

(Note: words reprinted with permission from the author’s family)


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