HYMN 189 Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling
Norwegian: Stille og inderlig Jesus deg kaller
Text: William Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) Tune: William Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909)
1. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; See on the portals He's waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.
R/Come home, come home, Ye who are weary come home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling Calling, "O sinner come home."
2. Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, Pleading for you and for me? Why should we linger and heed not his mercies, Mercies for you and for me?
3. Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me; Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, Coming for you and for me.
4. O for the wonderful love he has promised, Promised for you and for me! Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon, Pardon for you and for me.
Most of us have had that moment, in a far country, when we have come to ourselves and said, “Why am I here? I could be at home.” For many that may mean negotiating a treaty, begging forgiveness, or maybe even being met with joy by parents who thought you were dead.
That is the universal appeal of the story of the Prodigal Son. There is a place to go, a loving father waiting to welcome us like royalty, with good food, clean clothes and a party.
The revivalists like Dwight Moody and his generation who spoke to thousands upon thousands knew this longing and used it. The yearning for connection and home must have been especially strong in the 19th century as young people, no longer needed on the farm because machines were starting to take over tedious jobs, flocked to the cities. While exciting, many a young person met disaster there. In fact, the church organizations built institutions to meet this need after the Civil War into the early part of the twentieth century that would tell parents that their daughter or son could be met by some group or another and taken to a dormitory, or hotel, maybe, where they would be safe while they sought to establish themselves in the new environment.
My grandmother Anda came to Minneapolis in 1913 to take voice lessons. Her mother made sure that she was met at the train by some Deaconesses from the motherhouse in Minneapolis. Their advertising to parents often contained vivid stories of how a young girl had been misled on coming to the city and met disaster. Young men could find similar places in the city. Their feelings of being on an exciting new venture was probably equalled by their longing for home.
The evangelists knew this. There was no more effective song dealing with that longing than this one. When Dwight L. Moody was near death, no one was allowed in his room. When he heard, however, that Thompson was outside the door, he invited him in. During the course of their brief conversation, Moody said that he would have rather written this hymn than all that he had written. It did more to bring people home than anything else he could say.
As we grow older the places we can go to be at home grow fewer and fewer. We turn our eyes toward the home that Jesus promises us—a place with many mansions, where he, his Father and the Spirit will dwell with us—and we will be united with them forever. Everything in us that longs to be made whole and brought home will be. No wonder the prodigal son story has been so central to the Christian story. It gives us the assurance of a place to go, even as we live here in our Lord. A wonderful love we can find nowhere else. And so freely offered to us now.
Thompson was born in Liverpool, Ohio, to a successful businessman and politician. Thompson composed music even as a teen, working on both tunes and texts. He enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music and then studied in Leipzig, Germany for some time. When he returned, he found that the best way to get his music published was for him to build a company that would do so. The W. L. Thompson Music Company became one of the most successful businesses in the country. He sold sheet music, instruments and many other musical supplies to the music teachers and musicians around the country. He built another company in Chicago that did much the same thing.
This hymn is maybe the classic of the gospel song genre. It has been the sound track for movies, from Trip to Bountiful, A Prairie Home Companion, and the television series True Blood. It was sung at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has been translated into many languages. Many a soul has been saved after hearing a rousing sermon, receiving the invitation, and then walking down the sawdust trail while the congregation and choir sang this song.
Carrie Underwood https://youtu.be/EEY0eshiEmE
First Plymouth Church Lincoln, Nebraska, Rene Clausen’s arrangement
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Trip to Bountiful version