Monday, July 23, 2012

Will Your Anchor Hold

    As mentioned before, I'm spending a few weeks presenting favourite hymns of the congregation, using Dr. Cecil Kirk's book as a resource.  As part of the farewell service for the Lindsays, Phyllis chose the hymn "Will Your Anchor Hold."  For a congregation situated on an island, a seafaring reference seems appropriate.

    Here is what Dr. Kirk had to say on the subject.

Scripture reading: Hebrews 6. 13 - 20

This rousing hymn is the official anthem of the Boys' Brigade, an organization founded in Scotland in the latter part of the nineteenth century and which has spread to many countries around the world. Its aim is to promote "obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness".

The author was Priscilla Jane Owens. She was born in Baltimore but came of Scottish and Welsh descent. For more than fifty years she was active in Sunday School work in her own home town and most of the hymns and songs she wrote were to promote this work.

Many analogies have been used to describe the Christian faith and Miss Owens was certainly not the first to think of it in nautical terms, indeed there are several well known hymns which develop this thought. The epistle to the Hebrews describes the faith of the believer as an "anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast". It is interesting that these last three words are the motto of the Boys' Brigade.

Anyone who has ever travelled by boat, especially if that journey has been made across any of the world's large oceans, will know of the dangers that may have to be faced. One of the most likely is storm. Then even large ocean-going liners can be tossed around like a cork, such is the power of the sea. A parallel is drawn between the storms on the ocean and those we have to face inevitably in life. How will we fare when "the clouds unfold their wings of strife"? When you are tossed hither and yon by conflicting viewpoints, when you feel the strain of being deserted by friends, when all around you people are losing their heads and blaming it on you, will you have a sense of security that will hold you firm "when the billows roll?" This is when we must be able to turn to the Saviour who knows all that is happening to us because he himself had to undergo such trials and trust the anchor of our faith that is "grounded firm and deep" in his love.

Another source of danger is described as "the straits of fear". This is when we find ourselves sailing close to the nearby reefs and we can hear the surge of the waves pulling the ship towards disaster. Here we can think of the temptations of life which, if we succumbed to them, would make shipwreck of our soul so that "the angry waves then your bark o'erflow". Jesus knew the subtle power of temptation and he can help us resist and sail through the straits until we reach the calm waters again.

Eventually every voyage ends in the port that is the ship's final destination and the passengers look forward with expectation and excitement to the landfall. The Christian voyager sails towards "the city of gold", the new Jerusalem that is our final resting place. We look forward to seeing its profile "through the morning light" and casting our anchor safe "by the heavenly shore". Then the journey will be over and life's storms "past for evermore". The best part of any trip is the joy of coming home again. As Christians we anticipate the end of our earthly travels and the joy of coming ashore in our Father's kingdom.
   Reading the commentary on this hymn it seems a highly appropriate choice for those setting out to begin a new phase of life.  Thanks Phyllis and Dr. Kirk.

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