HYMN FOR WEEK 13 Jesus Savior, Pilot Me
German: Jesu, Heiland, führe du
Norwegian: Jesus, frelser, lods du mig
Spanish: Cristo, mi piloto sé
Text: Edward Hopper (1816-1888). Tune: John Gould (1821-1875)
1 Jesus, Savior, pilot me, Over life's tempestuous sea: Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rocks and treach'rous shoal; Chart and compass come from Thee– Jesus, Savior, pilot me!
2 As a mother stills her child, Thou canst hush the ocean wild; Boist'rous waves obey Thy will When Thou say'st to them, "Be still!" Wondrous Sov'reign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me!
3 When at last I near the shore, And the fearful breakers roar 'Twixt me and the peaceful rest– Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, "Fear not– I will pilot thee!"
REFLECTION Language about ships, sailing and storms at sea are less vivid to us today since, on the whole, we are landlubbers. In times before the invention of the steam engine, travel by sea was usually the fastest and easiest way to get around. Although the Israelites are not known for their exploits on the bounding main of the Mediterranean, they did have the Sea of Galilee at the center of their land and story. Jesus called fishermen as the first of his disciples. And his ministry involved many an account on the shores of Lake of Galilee, none more vivid than this.
The English, of course, dominated the oceans with their Royal Navy for centuries. So their hymnody has the sea, especially this account, in it as often as the hymns of Denmark and Norway where shipping and sailing were and still are central to their economies. Hymns about the sea and storms at sea spoke directly to the people who well knew the terrors of the ocean and had experienced its beauty and power. They knew it could be dangerous and deadly as well.
While Jesus slept and the disciples were panicking, we hear very clear echos from the book of Jonah languishing in the belly of the whale. Jonah's God can save the ship, something the sailors seemed to know. But this is also different. Jesus is one with the God who can calm the storm.
Did the disciples know that when they woke him? They seemed to, but yet not. That the disciples became more terrified when they realized that he was the Lord of the wind and waves is almost funny. What is that terror about? To know that Jesus is the Lord of wind and waves surprises and terrifies them.
Did they know when they awakened him from his sleep who he was? Or why did they awaken him? I completely understand their terror at the storm. I would probably have been too seasick to have done anything but pray for a merciful end.
My great grandmother Jonette and her future husband, Ole, sailed to America on a ship that took six weeks to make it across the Atlantic and it was a stormy trip. She had grown up on the coast of the North Sea and knew it well. She would say during the most difficult times of homesteading on the western prairies of Minnesota, that she never once wished to return to Norway. We always took that as a sign of her courage and strong will which she had in abundance, but we understood it better when one of her granddaughters said she wouldn’t return unless she could walk! The terror of the seas had been too much even for her, the daughter of fishermen, with a grandfather who drowned while fishing.
A devout Christian, she prayed to Jesus to still the storms many a time during that journey. Both she and her husband remembered throughout their lives that Jesus was the Lord of the wind and waves and could still any storm they met in their work on land or sea. As they became prosperous farmers and looked out over the sea of rich crops growing on the land around their farm house, they knew it was the Lord who gave the growth. I am sure the image of Jesus as the Lord of the tempestuous sea comforted them as they contended with record cold and blizzards as they huddled in their sod dugout, watched as grasshoppers came and ate everything in sight, living through droughts and too much rain, not having enough to feed their growing family of ten. Sometimes, they must have felt Jesus was all they had, a pilot who could keep them in the storm. And that was enough.
We are in the midst of tumults today, but we also believe that in the roughest of storms, both in nature and in the world, the Lord is the one who controls the winds and waves. He can be our pilot through the boisterous waves, but more, he can still the storm and keep us close even during the storm. This account of Jesus’ power should cause us to worship him in wonder and awe. And give us peace.
THE STORM AT SEA Exhausted, Jesus boarded a small boat, Falling to sleep on a cushion in the stern. A gale came up—they could hardly keep afloat Bailing out the water as the waves churned— While Jesus slept like Jonah in the ship. “Teacher, don’t you care that we will die?” They cried and woke him up, hearing the boards rip
Apart. He rebuked the winds and cried, “Peace, be still!” The winds ceased; a great calm Spread over the waters. “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?”The words of the mariner’s psalm
Rode on the rolling main as the storm obeyed Its master. His powers dawning on them, fear Sank them into terror as their God came clear. Mark 4:35– 41; Psalm 107:23–32; Jonah 1:4–9
From Jesus the Harmony, by Gracia Grindal, copyright 2021 Fortress Press
HYMN INFO Born in New York City, Hopper attended Union Theological Seminary and then served the Presbyterian church in Sag Harbor on Long Island, after which he became pastor at the Church of Sea and Land in New York for sailors. His most famous hymn is "All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name." He wrote this hymn some time before 1871, but when he was asked to write a hymn for a seagoing organization, he remembered he had parts of this already written. John Gould was a native of Bangor, Maine. He worked in New York City and Philadelphia, composing music for several books of Gospel songs.
LINKS The Mormon Tabernacle Choir https://youtu.be/zVcNIvZjarQ
Mahalia Jackson https://youtu.be/Gb-yn859ZUo
SE Samonte https://youtu.be/xgtz3V2IGdo
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys/Country Western version