We are now in the season of Kingdomtide. The season begins on the last Sunday of August and ends on the last Sunday of November (which is designated as Christ the King Sunday). During this season we declare the values and glory of the kingdom of God.1
The values that the kingdom of God teaches include humility and servanthood, which are conveyed in the hymn “Make Me a Captive, Lord”. It was originally titled “Christian Freedom” with the heading “Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:1”.2 In this Scripture text, Paul saw himself as a prisoner of Christ, which to him was an opportunity to evangelise.
“Being a prisoner of Christ is to attain perfect freedom,” writes Young. This paradox is articulated in the hymn through a series of paradoxes: captive–free; render–conqueror; sink–stand; enslave–reign; power–serve; my own–thine.
The author of the hymn, George Matheson (1842–1906) had been blind since he was 20. He depended much on his sisters for his research, reading and writing. His handicap might have “imprisoned” him, but it did not stop him from pursuing his passion for ministry. He became an assistant pastor at 25 and a pastor three years after.3
Singing through stanzas 1 and 2, one can sense Matheson’s complete reliance on the Lord for strength. Stanza 3 teaches us that power, which comes from the Lord Himself, calls for a willingness to serve. Stanza 4 points us to Isaiah 55:8–9—a reminder that our ways are not God’s ways, and thus we need to continue to seek the Lord until we find ourselves in
complete surrender to him.
Make Me a Captive, Lord (UMH 421)
Make me a captive, Lord,
and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword,
and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
when by myself I stand;
imprison me within thine arms,
and strong shall be my hand.
My heart is weak and poor
until its master find;
it has no spring of action sure,
it varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
till thou hast wrought its chain;
enslave it with thy matchless love,
and deathless it shall reign.
My power is faint and low
till I have learned to serve;
it lacks the needed fire to glow,
it lacks the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
until itself be driven;
its flag can only be unfurled
when thou shalt breathe from heaven.
My will is not my own
till thou hast made it thine;
if it would reach a monarch’s throne,
it must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
amid the clashing strife,
when on thy bosom it has leant,
and found in thee its life.
Words: George Matheson, 1842–1906
Music: George J. Elvey, 1816–1893
2 Carlton Young, ed. Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 478.
Judith Laoyan-Mosomos is the Director for Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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