September 17, 2019

Love Lifted Me

I've listened to sermons in big churches and in small churches for a good number of years. I've heard some of the best preachers Christianity has to offer. I've even preached a few sermons myself. But you know something - I do not remember any of them! I could not quote any of those sermons even those I preached. This lack of memory is a not a result of my advancing age, as my wife suggests, or my diminished mental capacity or my inattention during the sermons. I suspect I have a lot company.

However, there are some things I remember quite well. There are good Christian beliefs which come easily to mind, often seemingly "out of the blue". The brain is minding it's own business when out of the blue, something pertaining to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit interrupts.

The other day I was walking my dog Lilly when this popped into my frontal lobe.
     Love lifted me, when nothing else could help, Love lifted me.
     I was sinking deep in sin, far from the distant shore,
     Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
     But the Master of the sea lifted me, heard my despairing cry
     From the waters lifted me. Now safe am I
     Love lifted me, Love lifted me.

 That isn't from a sermon I heard. It isn't from scripture I read and studied. It's from a hymn, a hymn written in the early, early 1900's, It was copyrighted in 1912, but was written and sung years before. The scriptural basis for the hymn is Matthew 14:22-32. I am positive there have been numerous sermons on this passage, but I only remember "Love lifted me". What better reminder of God's love for those of us who are deep in our sin? If you could only remember one thing about God's love, why not this old hymn?

A lot of the old hymns carry the messages of faith. They are simple, well written and paint an indelible picture in our mind. A picture we remember well beyond the closing "Amen" of the church service. One hymn I always liked began, "Are you able to remember when a thief lifts up his eyes, that his pardoned soul is worthy of a place in Paradise?" Actually this is the hymn's second verse, but it is powerful nonetheless. Look at Luke 23:39-43. Knowing the hymn's picture but forgetting the scripture's location in the Bible, the Christian can be assured of the forgiveness of sin based on faith in the Lordship of Jesus. This is a more powerful remembrance of God grace and love than any of Paul's writings about grace.

Consider ; "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound...", "All hail the power of Jesus name...", "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame...", "He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand, He leadeth me. His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me". And on and on and on; all mini-sermons set to music so I would remember the message.

This is called the Doxology. It is not found in the Scriptures. The lyrics are actually the last verse of a hymn "Awake, My Soul, and with the sun" written in 1674, wow!  I remember learning this in our little church. It is a reminder to Praise God. What a great worship hymn! Thousands of sermons summed up in 26 simple, powerful, memorable words.

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; 
Praise Him all creatures here below; 
Praise Him above all ye heavenly hosts; 
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost". 

I attend a modern day Southern Baptist Church now. Preaching is excellent and meaningful.The music is wonderful, big choir, well trained orchestra and enthusiastic worship leaders. We sing new modern hymns with a lot of meaning. The congregation stands, raises their hands and applause. But I miss my small church Sunday evenings when we sang numerous mini-sermons usually from memory because we knew them. And we will remember them until we sing "I'll Fly Away", another old hymn! (written in 1929).

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