HYMN 230 Steal Away, Steal Away Home to Jesus
Text: transcribed by Alexander Reid Tune: Wallace Willis (ca. 1820-1880) R/Steal away, steal away, steal away,
Steal away to Jesus. Steal away, steal away home,
I haven't got long to stay here. 1. My Lord, He calls me (He calls me),
He calls me by the thunder (the thunder);
The trumpet sounds way down
Within my sanctified soul,
(I haven't got long to stay here). Green trees are bending (are bending),
Sinner stands a trembling (a trembling);
The trumpet sounds within my soul,
(I havent't got long to stay here). R/Steal away, steal away, steal away,
Steal away to Jesus. My Lord, He calls me (He calls me),
He calls me by the lightning (the lightning);
The trumpet sounds within my soul,
(I haven't got long to stay here). R/Steal away to Jesus.
Steal away, steal away, yes, Lord.
Steal away to Jesus;
I haven't got long to stay here. Ending:
I haven't got long to stay here.
(Repeat as desired) MEDITATION Well, that was a long night, and it isn’t over yet. No matter which side you were on, it is an upsetting time. It makes me want to steal away, to leave, stop the world I want to get off! This is a spiritual we do know something more about than most. The tune was composed by Wallace Willis, a slave of a Choctaw freedman in old Indian Territory some time before 1862. The Choctaw owned slaves, in fact they entered the Civil War on the side of the south. A pastor, Alexander Reid, at the school where Willis attended overheard Willis singing the song and transcribed it. He later sent it to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, the first musical group of African Americans to tour the United States and Europe after the Civil War and sing spirituals which became increasingly popular. There is a hidden message in it, as with many spirituals, Leave! Escape! If not on their own, take the Underground Railroad, begun near the end of the 18th century in America, which consisted of Safe Houses where slaves on the run could stay overnight and receive shelter and aid. There are estimates that over 100,000 slaves escaped from slavery via these routes. Many of them were on their way to Canada, sailing over Lake Erie or Lake Ontario to get as far away as they could from their owners. Others into Mexico. Many abolitionists, often church groups and others helped this work. Marilynn Robinson has written four novels in what is called the Gilead sequence about a family whose ancestors served as a station on the Underground Railroad. She follows the consequences of that support into the present generations with her latest novel Jack. But even as the spiritual speaks in code, it also speaks on its face. Wanting a place to rest, to find peace is a universal condition, especially in dire times like 2020 has been. We become a bit apocalyptic: The sounds of the trumpet, and trees bending before a storm with lightning are images of judgment which the Bible and our hymns use frequently. We know them well and for many reasons lots of people today are yearning for a place to shelter in the storm. As Christians we believe that God is somewhere in this unrest of an unsettling time. Life is fragile and so are we. Many illusions about the safety and unquestioned stability of our world have been crashing around us. It is bewildering to many, including me. We will be tempted to flee to places that seem safe or at least offer comfort and escape, but really cannnot. Too many today are retreating into drugs or alcohol. Or other unhealthy escapes.The only safe place we know from Scripture and our faith is Jesus. He is the true shelter in the storm. Steal away! HYMN INFO After the spiritual was transcribed and given to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, this song made it into the American Gospel Songbook where it has flourished ever since. LINKS Fisk Jubilee Singers
Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole
Cantus Moses Hogan Chorus National Taiwan Chorus Candace Potts and Marcus Smith