Psalm 12:6-7; 2 Timothy 4:2
Text: Edwin Hodder (1837-1904). Tune: Gottfried W. Fink (1783-1846)
1. Your Word is like a garden, Lord, With flowers bright and fair; And everyone who seeks may pluck A lovely cluster there. Your Word is like a deep, deep mine; And jewels rich and rare Are hidden in its mighty depths For every searcher there.
2. Your Word is like a starry host; A thousand rays of light Are seen to guide the traveler, And make his pathway bright. Your Word is like an armory, Where soldiers may repair, And find, for life's long battle day, All needful weapons there.
3 .O may I love your precious Word, May I explore the mine, May I its fragrant flowers glean, May light upon me shine. O may I find my armor there, Your Word my trusty sword; I'll learn to fight with every foe The battle of the Lord.
MEDITATION Whenever my formidable aunt Borghild heard a preacher struggling to preach the word without much success, she told me she would silently repeat to herself, “Thy word is like a deep, deep mine; and jewels rich and rare are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.” She was not confident the preacher had done much searching in Scripture’s deep deep mine.
This may be why faithful pastors in their old age, whether they are flashy rhetoricians or not, often can be so powerful. Not because they have learned new techniques for making the sermon a homiletical gem, but because the Word has worked on them over decades and made them rich in spiritual wisdom that they are glad to impart as they near the end.
When I heard my father’s last sermon before he suffered a brain injury in a car accident I was struck by this truth. He was speaking to us from a place that went deeper than I had heard before, right to the center, into the heart of God and his gospel for us. It was quietly preached—at his best he could be a stem winder--but this was different. It was filled with hard won truths learned after a life of ministry, studying and imbibing the Word every day, suffering for the gospel and rejoicing in its power.
He was preaching during an interim call for a brief time. Afterward the president of the congregation came up to me and said she hadn’t heard preaching like that before. That turned out to be his last sermon before the accident.
My colleague Michael Rogness at Luther Seminary would tell his preaching students, I can't predict how you will do in the future. You may be really good now, but you have to keep studying and working at this. One day, because of funerals, interruptions of all kinds, you might step into the pulpit unprepared with only an outline on the back of an envelope. Because you are scared stiff, it goes well, people might even praise you. A dangerous moment, you could decide you don’t have to prepare so much, and wing it every Sunday, but your preaching will decline.
The Christian life, especially the preacher's life, does not flourish without constant refreshment. A good preacher could die on the vine and become ineffective. A student with maybe not much promise could take fire by study and prayer and grow to be a fine preacher. It all depended on what they did to cultivate their gift.
My father said a fellow seminary student told him at their graduation he would end up as a middling preacher, in a middling congregation, and do okay. But he did better than that. Over the years, he never lost his joy and curiosity about the Word and how to preach it; he involved all of us in these conversations. We lived in a constant preaching workshop! He read and struggled with Scripture and the task of preaching every week, having endless conversations with my mother who had watched him grow, she said, at their retirement party, from a brash young preacher to a wise, deeply spiritual pastor. Both grew in the word as they talked about matters of life, faith, Scripture and preaching. A wonderful life long conversation! He got better and better, deeper and deeper. At the Fiftieth Anniversary of their class, his old seminary friend had the grace to say, “Harald, you are the only one of us still reading and studying.”
I tell this story to get it down, but also as an illustration of the truth of my colleague’s words, a parable for any Christian. One needs to dwell in the Word, soak in it, search it, live by it, talk about it, follow its guidance like the wisemen followed the star, until the very end. Listeners can hear in someone's speech how much they have explored "the deep deep mine," or plucked the “lovely clusters there.”
Which is why the old saints in the congregation who have spent their lives in the Word, no matter their formal education, are such rich resources for those of us needing to hear words of living faith. They have the humility, wisdom, and good sense from the school of life with the Lord. They have lived with him and his word over the years. What they say, you can hear, is true.
Although this hymn has faded from Lutheran hymnals, it was an important hymn in the past. The words have been set to a more contemporary tune which is also popular on Youtube. Hodder was born in Middlesex, England, and emigrated to New Zealand in his twenties for five years. He returned to England in 1861 where he joined the Civil Service. He wrote many hymns for the Sunday School movement. This hymn was published in The New Sunday School Hymn Book in 1863. Hodder published several more books over his life time.
Fink was a learned composer, writer and scholar. Born in Saxony, he had studied at Leipzig University. He became an editor of a musical journal and was known as a music critic in the region. He also established a school in Leipzig and rose high in the academic world at Leipzig and became a member of the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin. He composed many hymn tunes and song, most well known Musikalischer Hausschatz der Germans and Deutsche Liedertafel.
LINKS Ralph Carmichael’s Choir singing Fink's tune https://youtu.be/TURNHEhVNZ0
Piano version of Fink's tune https://youtu.be/fEoZAChURWg
Glory Praise Choir/ Fink's tune https://youtu.be/z5q2LgDkMAA
Presbyterian Glory Praise Choir/The hymn is popular round the world/
Raincross Master Chorale with new tune Forrest https://youtu.be/cpHc8ms6AQw