INVITATION and READING
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11: 28)
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Joshua 1: 9
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Glory to God in the highest!
The hymn that I’ve found myself singing this past week is “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” (TFWS #2158). It’s a favorite at Calvary that is often requested during our summer hymn sings.
The gentle swing of the beat and the longing rise in the melody seem a perfect fit for the text that calls out for Jesus to walk beside us through this life and the next, making for a great hymn of comfort and reassurance.
There is no known composer of this hymn, though musicologists site circumstantial evidence of its origin in the 19th century African-American Church, possibly predating the civil war. It was also sung at the large musical conventions of the African-American church during the 1930’s. “Just a Closer Walk” continued to gain popularity after 1940, when Gospel songwriter and publisher Kenneth Morris added additional lyrics and created a choral arrangement of this song. The first known recording came in 1941 by the Selah Jubilee Singers. From there it became popular in traditional New Orleans Jazz, and eventually found a home in American Folk music. In the years since, over 100 artists have recorded the song. This is surely testament to the hymn’s accessibility, and reassuring message.
As I find myself feeling afraid and discouraged by our troubled world as well as my own errant heart, my soul keeps singing this hymn to me, telling me not to fight my acknowledgement of sin and feelings of weakness, but to own them as a sign that things are not as they ought to be. I have the guiding partnership of Christ always near. It is up to me to seek him out and stay the course of faith and love.
And so, let us encourage one another not to run from our weakness, but to see our vulnerability as the open door for God’s healing power and strength to come in. For there we will find the guidance and comfort we seek. “Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”
Believing and preaching every word of this hymn is the great Mahalia Jackson:
Dear Lord, as we walk this Lenten journey, we are confronted by our sin and weakness. We fight it, deny it, and run from it. We become afraid and tired. We pray for the understanding that our fear and weariness come not as much from our weaknesses as from our running away. May we accept our human frailty as part of our earthly existence, and be reminded that you are the source of grace and strength. May we stop running from you. May we slow down to walk beside you, and allow our anxious souls to make room for your guiding power and wisdom. We ask your forgiveness, and give praise for your undying love for us. Amen.
I am weak, but Thou art strong, Jesus, keep me from all wrong, I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
(Refrain) Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Through this world of toil and snares, if I falter, Lord, who cares? Who with me my burden shares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er, Time for me will be no more, Guide me gently, safely o’er To Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore.
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries