HYMN 347 I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Matthew 11:28; John 4; John 3;
Text: Horatio Bonar (1808-1889) Tune: English folk, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams or Thomas Tallis or Amanda Husberg
1 I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto me and rest. Lay down, O weary one, Lay down your head upon my breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, So weary, worn, and sad. I found in him a resting place, And he has made me glad.
2 I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give The living water, thirsty one; Stoop down and drink and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank Of that life-giving stream. My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in him.
3 I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am the dawning light. Look unto me, your morn shall rise, And all your day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, and I found In him my star, my sun, And in that light of life I’ll walk Till trav’ling days are done.
MEDITATION One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is Jesus saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Then the images turn to the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well and maybe Nicodemus. Rest, water--the quenching of thirst, and light as a guide through difficulties. Basics of life.
Anxiety, they say, is causing people stomach problems, like GERDS or simple indigestion, so much so that there has been a run on medications that treat such symptoms. I have GERDs so on hearing this I went out and bought a supply—and got the last bottles on the shelf! This is what causes shortages, oddly, people trying to stock up to avoid shortages.
It is usually unfocused fears that cause anxiety. Worry about things that could or might happen. A good imagination is no defense against anxiety—it just contributes more vivid possibilities for disaster. Such anxieties can really be crippling and keep us from living life to the fullest. When I am stewing, I need to speak with Christians. Those who can reassure me with the word, and especially these words from Jesus. Just hearing them or singing them calms my spirit.
We teach children to be careful and avoid immediate disaster by saying, “Hot!” or Don’t“and “Be careful.” I have noticed with the baby I know best that after she hurt her leg jumping out of bed, she is much more careful, even a year after her accident. She learned something from that—how to avoid other such accidents, but that knowledge doesn’t keep her from life. She just asks for help when she needs it. And she will get it from the older siblings and adults in the house at that moment.
A parable of faith. Jesus addresses it in several parables—the birds or flowers of the field, and his advice not to wonder what we will say when persecuted. Worry will not add anything to your life. You will receive what you need when you need it.
The story is told about a pastor of the congregation in Chippewa County, Minnesota where my great grandparents homesteaded. Many from their region in Norway, including the pastor, had left for America in 1868 because of bad crops and a bad run of herring. I think of them in their poverty leaving the land that had not been able to feed them. And going to a strange, difficult land with faith and hope. It was about all they had.
Those were hard years on the frontier, especially 1873 when the congregation was founded. The blizzard of 1873 had been the worst in recorded history. Drought, grasshoppers, a financial panic. One evening the pastor's family had very little for supper and nothing for breakfast in the morning. The children went to bed hungry. As they did, they saw their parents kneeling by their bed praying. When they woke, there was food on the table.
A nearby farmer had awakened that morning and told his wife he was going to butcher an animal and bring some of it to the pastor in the old tradition of the food tithe for the pastor. He told her to prepare a basket of bread and other foodstuffs. He arrived just as the mother was wondering what she was going to feed her family.
The family, especially the children, never forgot this lesson in faith, remarking on it and telling the story to the next generations as a miracle story that saved their lives. Without that farmer’s gift, they might not have survived to tell the story.
All of us are heirs to such stories. They had much much less than we and were grateful for all they had received from the Lord. They found in him a resting place and he made them glad. A parable for us today.
Horatio Bonar was Scotland’s most gifted hymn writer in the mid 19th century. A pastor in the Free Church of Scotland, serving the parish in Kelso for most of his life, he became concerned that children had trouble understanding the metrical psalms of the church, strictly paraphrased with no other songs. So he began writing hymns that children might understand better. This hymn called “A Voice from Galilee“ was among the most popular and famous of his texts. It was published in his collection Hymns of Faith and Hope in 1857. Bonar wrote over 600 hymns like it to teach the faith to children and people who needed to know more than what they could learn from the psalms.
There are several tunes for the text, from Thomas Tallis to John Bacchus Dykes to Ralph Vaughan Williams who set it to the old medieval folk tune Kingsfold. The Dykes and Thomas Tallis’ Third Mode Melody were used in the SBH but the Tallis tune has become the more popular. Amanda Husberg’s setting is among her most well known tunes just now and is much loved.
St. Johns University and St. Benedicts choir/Tallis tune https://youtu.be/j8Q-YMm4ayo
Choir of Manchester Cathedral/Kingsfold https://youtu.be/6rr_4M5LQLo
Songs of Praise/Kingsfold https://youtu.be/uqF4N7rdV-w
Amanda Husbergs’ Version https://youtu.be/qcidxE6iEXQ
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder CO/Tallis https://youtu.be/BWiXuqTiZi4
Next month, April 6, my book of sonnets, Jesus The Harmony, will be released. One can pre-order it on Amazon now.