Friday, October 10, 2008

Jesus, With Thy Church Abide

Jesus, with thy church abide,
Be her Saviour, Lord and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure;
Grant her patience to endure,
Trusting in thy promise sure:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she one in doctrine be,
One in truth and charity,
Winning all to faith in thee:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,
Seek the lost until she find,
And the brokenhearted bind:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Save her love from growing cold,
Make her watchmen strong and bold,
Fence her round, thy peaceful fold:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May her lamp of truth be bright,
Bid her bear aloft its light
Through the realms of heathen night:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Arm her soldiers with the cross,
Brave to suffer toil or loss,
Counting earthly gain but dross:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she holy triumphs win,
Overthrow the hosts of sin,
Gather all the nations in:
We beseech thee, hear us.

- Thomas Pollock, 1871

I was meditating upon the words of this hymn, and one truth really stuck out to me, one I know I can stand to focus on more when I sing it! When I sing this song, I am not merely praying for the church at large, a particular group of like-minded congregations, or even my local congregation in general. I am praying for individuals! I am praying for my brothers and sisters in my church, whom I care for and love dearly! It is like I am singing, "Jesus, with Pam abide" or "grant Betty patience to endure." When I ask for the Lord to make her watchmen strong and bold, I am not merely talking about the elders of churches in general, but I am asking Jesus to keep Jim, James, Bob, Charlie, and John strong and bold. And when I sing the words "may her lamp of truth be bright," I am asking, among other things, that Bryan be a good witness to his dad and that Donna will reflect Christ to her sister. When I sing, "winning all to faith in Thee," I am thinking not only of those in the utmost ends of the earth but those who are unsaved in my own Jerusalem! When I pray that she may "one in doctrine be, one in truth and charity," I envision the faces of those in my local church, and it adds an earnestness and concern that just doesn't come with envisioning churches "somewhere out there." It isn't just praying for Christ to reconcile differences between Presbyterians and Baptists. It's asking Christ that there be nothing that will break the unity of the congregation of which I am a part! And the phrase "while her faith on earth is tried" becomes much more poignant when I think of the struggles that my own congregation has been going through, particularly lately: anxiety, depression, finances, health issues, lost loved ones, to name a few.

Of course, I should also take this song one step further because I am in no way exempt from needing to pray this for myself! I need this wisdom, guidance, and sanctification in the truth as much as my brethren do! While I know how much of a footnote my own life and my local church is in church history, it does not negate the fact that church history is made up of individual names who bore responsibility to love one another and serve one another in truth! Last Sunday afternoon, some of my sisters, who are part of the "younger crop" that God has reaped this year, were singing "The Power of the Cross," and I couldn't help but meditate on how good God has been to my church! Now, I know that things like this will touch me even more when I am middle-aged...they are only 15 years younger than I am...but still, it was very touching! It reminded me how I see the power of the cross not in the abstract but personally, in my own life and in the lives of those that I know and love.

I remember one of my Christian Education teachers in high-school saying that the church is always one generation away from extinction. Although I know that Jesus promised this will not ultimately happen, it makes me watch and pray and speak the truth in love all the more because a church falls when individual members aren't watching and praying and proclaiming the Gospel!

"The Power of the Cross"
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God— slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.


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