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Sunday, October 2, 2016
O Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
be thou forever near me,
my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle
if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway
if thou wilt be my guide.
O let me feel thee near me!
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle;
the tempting sounds I hear.
My foes are ever near me,
around me and within;
but, Jesus, draw thou nearer
and shield my soul from sin
John Ernest Bode’s “O Jesus, I Have Promised” (tune: Angel’s Story)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
When I stand and hear the organ introduction to a hymn I usually go into musician-mode. If I am being completely honest, I have real trouble being spiritual during hymns, thinking, “This is a great key for my range,” or “If I combine the tenor and the alto lines, I can virtually stay on one note the entire song!” Things deteriorate from there, with egocentric thoughts of, “I’m going to try for the high descant,” then, “I can’t believe my voice just cracked like a twelve-year-old!”
I usually read ahead in the lyrics so I can look away from the hymnbook while singing. “Boy, if someone saw me, they would think that I have verse 4 memorized. What an outstanding Christian I am!” By the end of the hymn, I am mentally exhausted and slightly embarrassed. I feel like I’ve just finished a musical crossword puzzle rather than lifted my voice in praise. Help! Am I spiritually sinking because of my musical training? I think not!
I am blessed by these devotionals, which isolate and shed light on the wonderful poems and psalms of our hymns. Let me reflect on today’s hymn. In the first stanza, John Ernest Bode writes with conviction and self-assuredness. He has no fear, nor will he wander from his promise to follow Jesus. In the very next verse, however, all the confidence seems to evaporate and he cries out for Jesus to draw near so that the writer can feel Jesus’ nearness.
How often do we profess our strength of faith, only to cry out for reassurance with the very next breath? Why is it that of all the sights and sounds that we are aware of, we cannot sense our Savior, who, by the Holy Spirit, lives within us?
Dear God, we are so sure of things that we see and hear. Help us be just as confident in the One who is always near. Amen.
Written by Katy Sinclair, Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth
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