Hymn: “Of All the Spirit’s Gifts to Me” – Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)
Typical Tunes: THREEFOLD GIFTS, MEYER
One of the newest texts I’m going to cover on this blog is from one of my heroes of modern hymn-writing: Fred Pratt Green, a British Methodist minister who penned some wonderfully meaningful texts which are easy to comprehend the first time you sing them – a goal of anyone who writes songs for congregational use. If you have a hymnal published in the past thirty years, it would be worth your time to read through the full text; for copyright reasons, I shouldn’t print it here.*
Life itself is ours on lease. These six words communicate so much about how our life is not our own; it is loaned to us for a brief period then returned to its owner – our owner – God himself. Green’s British turn of phrase here “ours on lease” brings even more emphasis to ownership.
While much of hymnody (especially the gospel songs from the first half of the 20th Century) point us toward our eternal life - our heavenly home - this one centers our attention back on our current situation. This life I call MINE is truly not mine at all! I need to be reminded of that now and then to keep me from getting what my mama called ‘the big head.’ Arrogance or self-confidence can blur our vision of who we really are; humble gratefulness can re-center our understanding of ourselves and of Jehovah… whose very name means ‘giver of life.’
In this world I’m driving a “loaner.”
One day it reverts to its owner.
No debt to repay,
So each day I say:
My God, he’s a wonderful donor!
Not nearly as poetic as Green, but you get the point! [I think that may be my first-ever limerick!]
By its very definition, a lease is temporary… and the owner is compensated as part of the agreement. In the case of our contract with God, HE has paid the price, and WE enjoy the benefit. That is the opposite of our usual understanding of how a lease works.
Okay, fellow lessors: contact your Lessee today. Thank him for affording you the privilege of life. While you’re at it, you may need to renew your lease!
* - At http://www.hymnary.org/text/of_all_the_spirits_gifts_to_me you can read the text and hear the hymn-tune played (click midi file). Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see words and music scanned from contemporary hymnals.