HYMN 40 Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Welsh: Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r Exodus 13,16-17; Text: William Williams (1717-1791) Tune: John Hughes (1873-1932) 1. Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; Hold me with thy powerful hand: Bread of heaven, bread of heaven Feed me till I want no more. Feed me till I want no more. 2. Open thou the crystal fountain Whence the healing stream shall flow; Let the fiery, cloudy pillar Lead me all my journey through: Strong deliverer, strong deliverer Be thou still my strength and shield. Be thou still my strength and shield. 3. When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside; Death of death, and hell's destruction, Land me safe on Canaan's side: Songs of praises, songs of praises I will ever give to thee. I will ever give to thee. Tr. Peter Williams (1722-1796) MEDITATION My dad, in a somewhat foggy kind of dementia, was like a boy that night. We had taken him to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis to hear the Augsburg Masterworks Chorale sing Mozart’s Requiem. He thrilled to it. It all came back to him, flooding him with good memories, a sweet moment to treasure. Two months later, as we stood around him singing hymns he loved, and still responded to, he would tread “the verge of Jordan” and die. When we hear familiar music, we are brought back, subconsciously, to the many times we have heard it before, and the many associations we have with it. This hymn, the one hymn from Wales that is popular around the world, has such associations for many of us. It makes me remember the wife of the bookstore manager at Luther Seminary, Mary. She had a Welsh heritage which she promoted at every opportunity. She was especially fervent about the Welsh songfests, Gymanfa Ganu, at which singers gather to sing Welsh hymns in four parts. This is a major song in the repertoire. She had taught her two daughters the Welsh and English versions so they could sing it by heart. They disliked the revision from Jehovah to Redeemer and never would sing Redeemer, substituting Jehovah every time. Very late one night, in February, 1986, Mary, on a lark, had taken her daughters, Naomi and Rebekah, to see the Ice Palace on Lake Phalen—she liked to do things like that. The road was icy and a semi jackknifed in front of them. Naomi, their older daughter, was killed instantly. Mary lay unconscious for some time, but recovered. The hymn, which of course was sung at the funeral, always brings that tragedy back to me as I substitute Jehovah in her memory. It must be something like that for the British royal family. This hymn has been sung at their grand public events for some time, like the funeral of Queen Mother Elizabeth. It was a key hymn at the memorial service for Diana in 2007. Not surprisingly it was sung at both Prince William’s and Prince Harry’s weddings. The many textures of their experience with the hymn are overwhelming to feel as we watch them during the various ceremonies. The hymn uses the imagery of the Exodus pilgrimage to describe the Christian’s daily journey forward. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, we receive bread from heaven, water from the rock. God guides us until we stand on the verge of Jordan, waiting to be brought over to Canaan. The hymn helps us pray for the Lord to guide us in our pilgrimage through the wilderness and at the end. On the way, as we sing, memories flood over us; every moment, whether sweet or tragic, is present all at once. As we grow older, there are more and more such moments; they go deeper and deeper. No wonder sometimes we can barely sing. HYMN INFO Written by Wales greatest hymn writer, William Williams, this became almost a national anthem for the Welsh. Williams, who was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church, was refused ordination as a priest because his theology had moved toward Methodism and its revivals. He suffered for this the rest of his life. Translated into English by Peter Williams, also involved with Methodism, the version has been sung boisterously at Rugby matches, in addition to many solemn and national celebrations or memorials. The tune by John Hughes has been the favored one. Other texts also are associated with it, but this one takes special place. Cwm Rhonndda, the name of the tune, meaning the Valley of Rhonndda, is the name of a place in Wales. LINKS Diana’s memorial service 2007 https://youtu.be/2o5FM8FxMco Kate and William’s wedding https://youtu.be/SwvpTl88jwI Massive choir/congregation https://youtu.be/Ofp6rdAgRrY Michael Ball at Wembley https://youtu.be/rshc59H-iKM Swansea choir https://youtu.be/7s1suWhb5KA

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