Text: Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925) Tune: Thomas John Williams (1869-1944) Ebenezer
1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus! Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, Rolling as a mighty ocean In its fullness over me. Underneath me, all around me, Is the current of thy love; Leading onward, leading homeward, To thy glorious rest above.
2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus! Spread his praise from shore to shore; How he loveth, ever loveth, Changeth never, nevermore; How he watches o'er his loved ones, Died to call them all his own; How for them he intercedeth, Watcheth o'er them from the throne.
3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus! Love of ev'ry love the best: 'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'Tis a haven sweet of rest. O the deep, deep love of Jesus! 'Tis a heav'n of heav'ns to me; And it lifts me up to glory, For it lifts me up to thee.
MEDITATION This hymn has been picked up by the contemporary movement, probably as much for its Celtic tune as for its really fine text. One hears the ocean, I think, in these tunes. They feel ancient, eternal, and connected to the depths of human experience.
Its words are also a testimony of faith for those singing it. And in this text, which originally had 8 stanzas, one hears the ocean and its vastness, great as the love of Jesus. Its repetition of the title phrase and its description of how Jesus' love floods one, around, below, above, is not only comforting but thrilling. It completely embraces one. It is a truth we all, especially the young, need to hear today.
Henry Horn, the old sage of Eastern Lutheranism, taught at Luther Seminary with me for several years. As pastor at University Lutheran Church in Cambridge, MA during the sixties and through the eighties, he told me once, that he realized that his ministry with the students in his charge had to change its focus. Many students came to him lost and feeling abandoned, no longer from strong and supportive families or communities. Many had been flagrantly trespassed on by others, even religious leaders, who had abused them inappropriately, leaving them wounded and feeling unloved. He knew as pastor he had to listen to the pains caused by those trespasses and minister to them. What they needed to know was that they were loved unconditionally, that Jesus loved them with a “love of ev’ry love the best.”
Things have only gotten worse. When I retired in 2014 from teaching, it was clear the anxieties of the young and their need for help seemed to have increased significantly. And now in the pandemic with the uncertainties of jobs and the future, with the unrest, we see it all around us--everyone seems to be suffering anxieties and fears. If you notice in the Youtube links, the story of the author's almost suicidal despair seems to have connected with the millions who have listened to various renditions of it. In their own words, they confess they have found it healing and reassuring. Our calling is to show the love of Jesus to all those around us, and point to its all-encompassing vastness--and security--that really is "a heaven of heavens" right now. Sometimes a song like this is the best way to feel immersed in love.
HYMN INFO The story is told that the author as a young man wrote this after contemplating suicide, thinking of jumping into the Thames River from the Hungerford Bridge in London. No one is sure about that, but still and all, the message of the hymn speaks to such despair and gives one an overwhelming sense for the love of Jesus, which surrounds us and holds us up in love. Francis was a successful merchant in London, but very little is known about him except that he was a member of, and lay preacher with, the Plymouth Brethren church.
The tune, EBENEZER, one of the great Welsh tunes, is sometimes called TON-Y-BOTEL because the joke went around it was supposedly found in a bottle, tune in a bottle. Thomas Williams, born in Ynysmeudwy, Glamorganshire, Wales, had an insurance business, but studied music in London and with others in Wales. He was organist and choirmaster in Zion (Baptist) and Calvaria (Baptist) Chapels in the early part of the twentieth century. He composed several tunes that have achieved world fame. His tunes have the Celtic sound especially popular just now for good reason. These are just a few of a variety of performances of the hymn.
Hereford Cathedral Choir
Simon Khorolskiy https://youtu.be/KLTu1xv2-Us
The Preacher's Daughters