Third Sunday in Lent
March 7, 1999
|Exodus 17:1-7||Water from a rock||128: He Leadeth Me: O Blessed
130: God Will Take Care of You
|Psalm 95||Hearts were harder than rocks at Massah and Meribah||315: Come, Ye Faithful, Raise
410: I Want a Principle Within
|John 4:5-42||Water from The Rock||138: The King of Love My
380: There's Within My Heart a Melody
|Romans 5:1-11||Water from The Rock reconciles||361: Rock of Ages, Cleft
479: Jesus, Lover of My Soul
545: The Church's One Foundation
The Bible's story of the human condition continues. Adam fell. The people of Noah's day drowned. And now we come to the Patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy for us to point and talk about their difficulties. There is honesty for starters. Sarah wasn't really Abraham's sister, was she? Which brings up another question -- how about loyalty to your spouse! Let's skip the details on that one and move right along to sibling rivalry in the blended family. If I understand the Bible, Abraham's funeral was the last meeting of Ishmael and Isaac. Unfortunately, Isaac didn't seem to learn any lessons from the family strife he experienced in his youth. In his household Isaac once again fostered a fierce division between his own sons by openly favoring Esau. Of course, the problem here was not entirely of Isaac's making. Jacob seemed to understand the art of self dealing quite well, and he took every opportunity to drive the wedge deep between himself and Esau. By the time he was given the name Israel, he had actually made himself into an international fugitive!
Think about the convoluted stories of the Patriarchs, and then remember -- we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! There is something uncommon about those men, but we don't worship them. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There is no doubt that these men stumbled in their walk with God. Yet we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God made a special promise to them. It was the same promise that God made to Adam. It was the same promise that had been passed to them through Noah. Yet we don't mention Adam or Noah when we say that we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What was that promise? It was the promise that the savior of the nations would come through their descendants. In spite of their human faults, God loved them and blessed them. He gave them the greatest promise of all -- the hope of salvation from the sinful, human condition.
Like the Patriarchs, we have faults. We are imperfect. Yet God loves us, and His promise of hope and salvation is extended to us. This week's featured hymn, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, was written by Charles Wesley. For both John and Charles Wesley, the Christian faith was a deeply personal matter. Charles felt a special moving of the Holy Spirit in him following his work in the Georgia Colony, and the story of John's heart being "strangely warmed" is well known. These personal encounters with God shaped the ministry and message of the Wesleys. More than any of his other works, the words penned by Charles Wesley in this hymn reflect the close, intimate relationship that he felt. Here is what he wrote:
|1. Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.
|2. Other refuge have I none,
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
|3. Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
more than all in thee I find;
raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
false and full of sin I am;
thou art full of truth and grace.
|4. Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound,
make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart;
rise to all eternity.
Words like these, so personal and so intimate, make some people uncomfortable. Hymn writing in the church had traditionally avoided the deeply personal sentiments expressed here, often focusing instead on corporate or congregational worship and spirituality. In fact, John Wesley himself seemed reluctant to include these marvelous stanzas in his collections of hymns.
The tendency to focus the attention of hymns on "the church as a whole" remains a common approach to hymn writing today. But God loved each one of the Patriarchs personally. And God loves each one of us personally. Like Charles Wesley, who knew and said so plainly, "Jesus, lover of my soul," take refuge in God's presence and in the knowledge of His great love for you.
God bless you--
Lection at HymnSite.com
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|