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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Come, holy Comforter,
thy sacred witness bear
in this glad hour.
Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of Power.

To thee, great One in Three,
eternal praises be,
hence evermore!
Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see
and to eternity love and adore.

“Come, Thou Almighty King,” (tune: Italian Hymn)
from Collection of Hymns for Social Worship
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

If you know the tune of this particular hymn, you know there are two phrases that have a distinctive and somewhat declarative feel to them musically: “in this glad hour” and “hence evermore.” The phrases stand out because of the way they are meant to be sung. They sound somewhat like a doorbell chime. It’s as though we should take notice.

The words in these verses are like a Call to Worship, much like how we begin our worship services—asking God to be present with us. We ask God that “thy sacred witness bear—in this glad hour.” The prayer is that we would sense God’s presence in the hour of worship—that “in this glad hour” the sense of God’s presence would “rule in every heart. “

On one hand, it seems silly that we should ask God to be with us when, in fact, we proclaim all the time that God is always with us. I’m reminded of a plaque that hung on the chaplain’s office door at Evanston Hospital: “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.” Perhaps, the words “in this glad hour” are meant to stand out because they encourage us to slow down and to pay attention to the moment at hand, to whatever hour is in front of us, because when we do, when we take a deep breath and try to take in the moment, we stand more of a chance to see how God is present, even before we asked. 

When we get those glimpses of God’s presence, the response is gratitude and praise—or it should be, if we took the time to notice. “To thee, great One in three, eternal praises be, “hence evermore.” Maybe that phrase, as it is sung, is meant to remind us that praise should become habitual. Maybe there was a time when you felt particularly close to God and praise came naturally. And perhaps now that feeling has escaped you. The reminder that our praises should be “hence evermore” is a reminder to thank God even if that sense of God’s grace and love and presence was something you once felt but has seemed long forgotten. “In this glad hour” pay attention to the moment. And “hence evermore” remember to be thankful.

God, whose presence and faithfulness is steadfast, slow us down to pay attention to these glad hours you have given us, to the people who enter our lives and the tasks that come our way, to the joys and to the struggles. Give us the discipline to remember our manners, to say thank you, to praise you, hence evermore, for the glimpses of your presence, for the people who encourage us in faith, for the beauty that brings us hope in the midst of a world full of troubles. In this glad hour, let us give you thanks and continue to do so hence evermore. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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