Monday, September 17, 2018

"We will walk and worship ever."

Hymn: “Shall We Gather at the River” – Words & Music by Robert Lowry (1826-1899)

Although it is in the middle of a gospel song often used in conjunction with river baptisms, it is a text about our gathering at the heavenly river – the one that flows right by the throne of God – where the saints gather to join in the final, eternal worship of him who sits on that throne.

One of my favorite places to visit in the state of Texas is San Antonio. We welcomed the 21st Century in there on December 31, 1999... the night the technological system was to implode and the world was supposed to end. We’ve been there several times since we moved back to this part of the world. We enjoy the food, the history and the culture, but we LOVE the River Walk, especially when the weather is nice and it’s not all that crowded. It is made for peaceful, hand-holding strolls. When we can afford it, we stay in one of the hotels with balconies overlooking the canal; that way, we can step out the door and be on our happy way.

Walking is a good physical activity, but there’s something cathartic about placing one foot in front of the other with a rhythmic pattern that seems to free the heart and soul. For some reason, it’s even better when done along water… the beach, the lakeside, the mountain stream.

On the other side of eternity, we will have the privilege of being pedestrian in our worship… not because worship will be uninteresting or dull, but because we will accept our role as a holy pedestrian; even as we walk – in fact, in everything we do - our attention will be centered on the One with whom we will spend the rest of our days. For those of us whose main ‘button’ is worship, this is what we look most forward to.

Today can be a practice session for the nothing-but-worship life which we anticipate.

Hear an an unaccompanied singing of this hymn

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"I was an outcast stranger on earth... but I've been adopted."

Hymn: “A Child of the King” – Harriet E. Buell (1834-1910)

No longer on the edge… at the perimeter of life. God has welcomed me into his family.

How many times have you seen ANNIE? Whether the staged musical or the movie (with its exchange of July Fourth for Christmas!), few of us avoid the lump-in-the-throat excitement when Daddy Warbucks brings the mop-top waif into his Fifth Avenue mansion… and eventually wants to adopt her. It’s a story-line that works every time – on stage, on film, in novels and biographies: outcast child invited into a family. And it works every time in the faith-life, too!

We Christian people sometimes forget that we are adopted by the Heavenly Father, invited to participate in the Kingdom with all his other children. We share the family name of his only-fathered Child. And according to that Child, a mansion is being prepared for us to enjoy for all time… rent-free at that!

Those of us who have found ourselves on the fringes are the most likely to appreciate being invited to join the team during recess… to be considered on common ground with the coolest of kids… to play in the reindeer games!

Keep an eye out around you: marginalized humanity is waiting to be brought to the vibrant center of life. A grace-ful invitation may be all they need. An accepting attitude may be all they require. A saving Lord may be the answer they seek.

Miss Hannigan or not, there’s an orphanage out there filled with lonely, desperate, unloved seekers. Let’s help them find a home.

A youth choir leads the congregational singing of this hymn

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"To all life thou givest, to both great and small."

Hymn: “Immortal, Invisible” – Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908)

Let me just say that I love this hymn. I think I would never tire of singing it in worship. The sturdy 3/4 pulse and the powerful text always resonates with me as the words trip over my lips! Within this hymn are some great lines, but I’ve chosen this one to deal with today.

This hymnline always reminds me that God is no respecter of persons. He makes the sun and rain to fall on the just and the unjust… the important and the seemingly insignificant. He gives life to all despite their ‘place’ in the world order… the great and the small. Having always considered myself on the of-lesser-importance end of the spectrum, this hymnline inspires me!

During his earthly adventure, Jesus found himself visited by lowly shepherds and by wealthy men from the Far East; sitting with the highest officials in his religion, lawyers, government officials; working in the lives of city leaders, lepers and other outcasts; walking tall among the greatest people of his day, and stooping to be on the level with the sinningest sinners; standing in the Temple preaching and praying, and later letting children sit in his lap. He was an enigma for sure – a conundrum for those who tried to figure him out.

He still is a paradox. His ways are still a mysterious “puzzlement” (to quote Yul Bryner). He is still giving life to both ends of the social spectrum – giving breath to all who require it to stay alive… and giving his redeeming Spirit to those who wish to stay alive forever.

You know those sticker things people put on the back window of their van to represent the family inside? That pretty much says it all so far as who is acceptable in God’s family! The next time you pull up behind one of those sticker-clad SUV’s in traffic, be reminded that God gives life to both great and small… even you!

Hear the Congregational Singing of This Hymn

Friday, September 7, 2018

"Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal."

"Despair" - Gill Kaye

Hymn: “Come, Ye Disconsolate” – Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

Hardly anyone sings this hymn anymore in worship. I suppose it is too much of a downer. It will not allow us to escape the depths to which it moves us – we who are beyond consoling. That’s too bad, because on my disconsolate days, this hymn-line is one to which I turn because it is as true as any scripture I might seek out. Some Sundays I NEED to sing this hymn. Some Fridays, I need to meditate on it.

The dictionary definition of sorrow is: a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.

There are times when I experience this kind of sorrow. I won’t make a list here, but you probably just made a mental list of your own. You may have even been overwhelmed by some sorrow during the last few days… maybe even the past few minutes.

Interestingly, one of the synonyms for sorrow is regret. Hmmm. Now, isn’t that interesting. I think I’ve always tied this text to those earthly disappointments offered in that dictionary definition. But if I understand that there are no regrets – nothing from my past, however sinful it may have been or may seem to me – no regrets that heaven cannot heal. Oh, my! Isn’t that freeing?!

The other stanzas end with similar phrases: Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure, and Earth has no sorrow but heav’n can remove. This is powerful stuff we’re dealing with here, folks. If these phrases are true – and I believe they are – then after having meditated on these hymn-lines, we should have a better attitude about our life!

If the great God of heaven can heal, cure and remove my sorrows – even my regrets – then should I not be ecstatic in my appreciation… in my thanksgiving.

Most of us have trouble accepting forgiveness – from other humans and/or from God himself. But let’s do a better job of being receptive of the healing, curing removal of our transgressional sorrows.

I hate it when I’m in the middle of something which is a crisis for me, and someone says, “Oh, just get over it.” It is an un-kind statement… and probably an un-Christ-like response. Instead of getting over it, perhaps we need to give it over – give it over to heaven and the One who sits upon the throne thereof!

RSVP: Regrets Only No Regrets

An arrangement of this hymn by Terre Johnson (from HBU)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"When at last I stand with the heav'nly choir... I shall never tire."

Hymn: “There’s a Glad New Song” – Words & Music by Albert C. Fisher (1886-1946)

For the first time in over forty years, I am singing in a church choir!* I’m experiencing the music ministry from the other side of the rail! I consider myself fortunate indeed to attend an evangelical church that still has a choir; the truth is that we’ve had several people join our church in recent months because they want to attend a service in which the music is choir-driven. It’s a very good choir: they sing well, read music better than most volunteer groups, and they are engaged in their leadership of worship.
But one of these days, I plan to stand with a massive number of singers who gather near the throne of God to offer up continual praise of the One who sits there! I have the feeling the music never ends – that it’ll be like an incessant medley, won’t it? When we finish one great hymn or anthem, we’ll modulate into the next. For us musicians, THAT would be heavenly!

Although it sounds like an old gospel song, the third stanza of this fairly new hymn (first published in 1956, ten years after the death of its writer) speaks to me with today’s hymn-line and following:
            When at last I stand with the heav’nly choir in the light of the throne above,
            On the golden strand I shall never tire of the song of redeeming love!
            Of his love I shall ever sing
            Till above I behold the King.
            Through eternity my glad song shall be of the Savior’s redeeming love.

Sometimes I fly into the choir room after Sunday School and throw on my robe, make certain I have the correct stole turned to the right side, grab my folder and race to my chair, trying my best to be situated before the pre-service rehearsal begins. I often audibly say “Whew” as my backside hits the chair. But once the singing begins, I am renewed. I hope I shall never tire of singing the praises of God… in this life or the next.

* - I wrote this Hymnline before I lost my ability to match pitch due to a hearing problem. All the talk about my participation is no longer relevant... in THIS life. I still plan to regain my hearing and be able to harmonize in the life that is yet to come. Therefore this is a more hopeful hymn than ever for me!

[I couldn’t find a recording of this hymn. I hate that, because I’d love for you to hear it! Sometimes those hymns whose phrases speak to us are not as popular with everyone else as they were with us. Take my word for it: it’s worth hearing… and singing. Google it if you want to sing or play through it.]

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)