Text and tune: African American spiritual or Harry Dixon Loes, (1895-1965)
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine,
Let it shine, I’m going to let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine,
All the time.
This is one of those children’s songs that has captured the attention of Sunday school teachers for many reasons--not only is it pure Scripture, but its actions are fun to use with children. It is a sweet and innocent thing to watch children sing it, gesturing with their hands about how they are going to let the light shine, not hide it under a bushel, nor let Satan blow it out and let it shine all around the neighborhood. It is a sweet teaching of mission work that we hear about in the text for Sunday, when Jesus calls the disciples Andrew and Peter, and James and John, from their fishing boats, telling them he is going to make them fishers of people.
And for some reason, immediately, they left their nets, and followed him. I have often wondered whether I would have reacted the way they did and just put everything by and followed. His voice must have been irresistible. Did they hear their creator’s voice in it, reimagining their future? It certainly opened a door for them that they could not have imagined that morning as they left for their work.
As they followed this man, did they realize that one day they would be made into people who would have the guts to go to the uttermost part of the world with their teacher’s message? If asked the day they said yes, they may not have been able even to conceive of the new world they were entering or what it would mean for them as they brought the light of Jesus to parts of the world they had probably never even heard of? Could they imagine that their call was what Bonhoeffer would say was a call to die? Could they imagine they would be martyred in cruel and terrible ways for their witness?
Life with Jesus always means a profound change for us. We are going down the road in our conventional ways, and then, we hear a voice to which we say yes, and suddenly everything changes. Jesus first of all changes us—his new birth in us turns us around and makes us fit for heaven, and then he changes us into disciples who will be able to carry his word to all people and bring them into the kingdom. They too will be changed because of the word we have brought them.
We are not bringing ourselves to the world, but bringing Jesus. Nothing is more tiresome than the narcissism so rampant today. Not very many people are interesting enough to change us. Mission is bringing Christ, and his light, to others, bringing God into the world through our voices, speaking his name and substance into the people around us. They are dying for new life, a new vocation and a new sense of purpose.
Thus, we look at the children gesturing about what Christ has called us to do in the world: shine his light. It is really very simple. He promised us that wherever we meet in his name, and speak it, he will be there. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Listen to his voice, see his light, and pass it on.
Some say this was written by Avid Burgeson Christiansen, a native of Chicago who wrote gospel songs. The song was arranged by Harry Dixon Loes, another composer of the day. It was included in the hymnal Songs of Redemption in 1920. Other creditable sources say it is an African American spiritual. It may be all of those. In any case, the song has been sung for generations by children and adults all reveling in their calling to bring Christ to the nations. My hymn at the end meditates on what it is like to hear the voice of Jesus calling us today.
Sangah Noona--some piano!
Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea/really fun! several years apart
Soweta Gospel Choir
YOUR VOICE, LORD, IS THE WORLD TO ME
86 86 86
(can be sung to Brother James Air)
Your voice, Lord, is the world to me.
It made the floating spheres
And moves within my deepest parts
To take away my fears.
For when you speak, I hear the truth;
Its power draws me near.
O Jesus, Savior, change my heart
And make me yours alone,
For I am caught in dreadful things—
You know what I have done.
My lusts entangle me in sin;
My faults are all my own.
And still you call me to your side,
Where you can make me new.
Lord Jesus, heal me, change my heart,
So I can follow you
And speak to those who need to hear
And what you say is true.
As once you spoke in Galilee
To simple fishermen,
Call me to put my troubles by,
To follow you again,
So one day I can praise your name
In heav’n above. Amen.
NB: Lent is approaching. There is still time to order this classic of Lenten poetry and hymnody by Iceland's greatest Lutheran hymn writer.
A link to my translation of the Passion Hymns