Hymns & Songs

God has a word for each of us if we choose to listen carefully

Dec 2009    

The Summons

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Th us I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

— John L. Bell (1947-)

FOR SOME OF US who think that hymns are musical works written by some decomposed persons before the 20th century, I like to inform you that this hymn by the Rev John Bell, an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a member of the Iona Community, is very much alive and well. Born and raised in Scotland, he is a well-known advocate for the renewal of congregational singing.

According to Bell, “this song was written for two people who had been part of a programme which Graham Maule and I ran when we were in charge of youth work for the Iona Community. We encouraged young people to leave work, education, etc for a year and become volunteers living off state benefit and residing in the poorest neighbourhoods of large Scottish cities. They had no title or privileges, but were to live among impoverished and marginalised people and work out what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.

“Once a week we met for reflection, study (we read Bonhoeffer and others) and mutual encouragement. Over the four years of the programme we must have had around 50 people between the ages of 18 and 25 giving one or two years. Of these the majority went on to ministry or some form of social work.

“When they were leaving, we had a ‘sending out’ liturgy, and Graham and I would try to write a song reflecting the experience of those who were leaving. Hence this song. The tune is a folk melody found to different texts in both Scotland and Ireland.” (Email conversation with the author on Oct 26, 2009)

In this song, Bell raises some existential questions about living our lives for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It seems remarkably similar to the questions posed by Jesus to Peter when they met by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21: 14-17) albeit more questions instead of the profound “Do you love me more than these?”

Yet is it not true that what we put as the focus of our lives shape our thinking and actions?

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

“Find a quiet place and spend time with the lyrics … Let God speak to you in the silence. Listen attentively to what God is saying to you.”

Recently, I sent my son for further studies. When my friends learned that he had received acceptance from three different institutions but in the end chose one that was not so prestigious, they wondered why. I told them it is because he felt that God has called him to go there. It was an act of faith that he was taking as a young man.

Confused as he was then and undecided even now, I know he will seek to live his life for God because he has seen how God can move in mysterious ways. These ways may seem to be unconventional and infinitely “scary” and yet “blindly assuring” because that is the way of God.

Are you at a crossroads in your life? Are you seeking to know God’s purpose for you?

There is much depth and insight in this hymn text that I really would not do it justice by just talking about it to you. Hence, may I invite you to find a quiet place and spend time with the lyrics and the scriptural passage of John 21?

Let God speak to you in the silence. Listen attentively to what God is saying to you. I firmly believe our God has a word for each of us if we choose to listen carefully. Thereafter, may I ask that you write down what you heard and share it with others so that they may also be encouraged by your encounter with our gracious loving God.

Weblink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUFQ1Icfcps&feat ure=related accessed Oct 25, 2009.

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