Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"I'm possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure."

Hymn: “Since Jesus Came into My Heart” - Rufus H. McDaniel (1850-1940)
This rip-roaring, toe-tapping gospel song has enjoyed popularity since it first appeared in print in the early 20th Century. Because it is a fun tune with lots of repetition in the melody, it caught on quickly and stuck… and is still used commonly in evangelical worship.

As is true of so many hymns, this one emerged from the soul of Rufus McDaniel in response to a tragedy – the death of his son. It’s hard for us to believe that such a positive set of words could be prompted by a season of grief and loss – especially set to such a lively tune by Charles H. Gabriel, one of the most prolific tunesmiths of the time; we are most familiar with his “I Stand Amazed in the Presence.”

We have a hint at McDaniel’s loss in another stanza of “Since Jesus Came into My Heart” with
            There’s a light in the valley of death now for me…
            And the gates of that city beyond I can see…
            I shall go there to dwell in that city, I know.

The thing that stands out to me in today’s hymn-line is being possessed by hope… owned by, mastered by, controlled by hope. What a wonderful thought. But each time I sing that line, I have to ask myself, “Am I?” Does my steadfast, secure hope truly shape all of my thinking and doing? Am I constantly motivated by a hopeful attitude? I mine the kind of hope that is confidently expectant?

When many of us hear the word ‘possessed,’ our minds go to something evil… probably because we grew up with movies like The Exorcist! But here, possession is a good thing!

Possessed is closely akin the word obsessed… but this is a glorious obsession!

The term fanatic has been cast in a negative light; we are always concerned when someone becomes fanatical about an idea or a cause. It is, of course, the shortening of this word which is our word “fan”… and we are surrounded by fanatics when any sports season is in full swing! A true, obnoxious fan is obsessed with his/her team or celebrity figure… possessed… owned by, mastered by, controlled by.

Without being obnoxious, I want to be a person possessed by great hope… secure faith… firm belief. I certainly don’t want to become hope-less. And I won’t become despairing if my confidence is steadfast and sure – not because I have conjured it up, but because Jesus came into my heart… and he continues to do that just when I need him most.

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Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)