Monday, August 28, 2017

Before she moved, Edna gave me a great gift, a copy of the Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk's manuscript on hymns for every day of the year.  
Coming up with something for this blog every week is sometimes a strain.  When I'm stuck, I turn to other writers for inspiration.  As a former parishioner at SPPC, I find Dr. Kirk's thoughts reliable and appropriate.  Here is what he has to say on "Be Still, My Soul," his choice of a hymn for August 27.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Scripture reading;  Luke 21: 13-19

Jane Borthwick made her translation of the German original of this hymn in 1855.  The hymn itself was written in 1752 by Katharina von Schlegel.  Very little is known about her though she is believed to have been the head of an Evangelical Lutheran nunnery in Cothen.  It is not impossible that she may have been attached to the ducal court there.  The songs of the German Pietists were largely unknown outside that country until three women  - Jane and Sarah Borthwick and Catherine Winkworth - translated them into English.  Jane and Sarah Borthwick published a volume of translations under the title Hymns fro the land of Luther" and it was there that this hymn first appeared.  Miss Borthwick was a devoted member of the Free Church of Scotland and was actively engaged in missionary  and social work.

When first published in English, the hymn was headed "Submission" and was accompanied by the words of Jesus:  "In your patience possess ye your souls."  This is the key to the theme that runs all through the hymn - the Christian's attitude of complete trust and submission to the Lord in times of grief, pain or bereavement.

One of the great assurances of the Christian faith is that we are not called on to travel the pilgrim road alone or unaccompanied.  "the Lord is on thy side."  He is our constant companion in every situation whether glad or sad.  It is important to know this because Jesus himself described Christian discipleship as cross-bearing.  He stated that anyone who would come after Him must be prepared to deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow Him.  (Matt. 16: 24)  That cross may be "of grief or pain" and yet we must be prepared to bear it patiently trusting God to provide the strength and to order our way for us.  Whatever happens to us "he faithful will remain" and however difficult the road we are called to walk we know it "leads to a joyful end" because Christ Himself will be there.

As we look back over the years that have gone, we can see the ways in which God has provided for us and directed our way.  So very often our understanding of the divine guidance is fully understood only as we look back to it.  For the present all may now seem dark and mysterious but we rest our confidence in the loving presence of our God and when we do so we shall discover that "all . . . shall be bright at last."  Our Lord is as capable of ruling the stormy passions of the world around us and those that beat within us as He was of controlling the elements of nature during His earthly life.

The further we travel along the road of life, the more likely it will be that some of the travelling companions of the years will depart through death.  The loss of such friends can be a real trial for us.  We have valued them for their support and encouragement.  Their loss means that we are cast more and more upon the One who comes to us "to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears."  But more, He fills up the voice that has been created for "thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness, all He takes away."

Life passes all too quickly by and "the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord."  That thought should fill us with hope and expectation.  Here below we have human "disappointment, grief and fear."  There has been the sorrow of defeat and loss; we have been confronted with change and our eyes have known bitter tears.  But we have so much to look forward to.  We shall experience "love's purest joys" and we shall arrive "safe and blessed" in our heavenly home.  With such blessings we can "be still" in the presence of the Lord.
                                                                     -- Rev. C.J. Kirk

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