Hymns & Songs

Loving God even in the midst of pain

Oct 2009    

More Love to Thee, O Christ

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to  Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are y messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Elizabeth P. Prentiss, 1856

RECENTLY, AS PART OF MY RESPONSIBILITY as Director of Field Education in my seminary, I began the annual routine of leading first-year students to visit local churches. By all accounts, this is an enriching exercise for everyone as we participate in and observe various worship styles. roughout this time of church visitations, I have generally observed that churches are good in garnering and encouraging the praise of God. Much of this is joyful in nature and done on the assumption that the congregation is eager and ready to give thanks and praise to God at that moment.

With an increasing number of churches discovering the efficacy of contemporary songs in harnessing hearts and uniting voices, the assumption is that everyone is geared up to praise God readily. Surreally it is as the words of this chorus go – “let’s forget about ourselves and magnify God’s name and worship Him.”

The question that begs to be asked is what happens if we do not feel like doing that on a particular Sunday, or worse, for a stretch of Sundays? What happens if we are in pain, at the lowest ebb in our lives and things are really not going our way? Would it be hypocritical for us to “put on a happy face” for Sunday worship? If our feelings fail to coincide with the joyful act of worship, how might we reconcile the emotional difference? In light of this, this hymn by Elizabeth Prentiss, wife of a Presbyterian minister, has much to teach us.

Historical sources tell us that throughout her life, Prentiss was always ill. This hymn was created at the lowest point of her life, on the occasion of the untimely death of her two young children.1 In this dark hour of her life, she meditated on God’s dealing with Jacob and was led to compose this hymn.

It is easy to express our love for God when things are going our way. May we learn from the example of Mrs Prentiss that even if the going gets tough, we need to intentionally and deliberately choose to love God – even if it is through our pain. Rather than asking “why, Lord?” Prentiss advocates “More love to Christ!” She reminds us,

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain, when
they can sing with me:
More love, O Christ, to Thee.

Her life, as recounted, is not a lesson of deluded grandeur but a lesson of desiring God even when the purpose of living could not be found or understood. Truly our worship of God need not depend on how we feel. Yet it is important that those who plan our worship services need to take this reality into consideration – that not everyone coming to worship God is “happy”. When the state of being of the congregation is given due consideration, our worship services will be tangibly tender. It would be a place where we can experience the unconditional love of God.

1 http://www.reformedandlovingit.com/2009/04/more-love-to-thee-o-christ.html accessed 25 August 2009.

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Important Judicial Council ruling

IN COMPLIANCE WITH the requirements of the Charity Council’s Code of Governance 2006, ¶149.1 (e) and ¶149.1

(f) of e Book of Discipline were amended at the General Conference in September 2008. They fix a mandatory maximum term of four consecutive years for Treasurers and Chairpersons of Local Church Finance Committees.

As a guide to local churches, the Judicial Council has ruled that any Local Church Treasurer or Finance Chairperson who is serving a fourth consecutive year in 2009 is ineligible to serve during the 2009-2010 term. They may become eligible for election to such positions in future, subject to the same term limit of four consecutive years. The full decision will be published in the General Conference Journal.

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