My sister Elna loved hymns. Rich, spirit filled hymns that you find in those hymnals in those racks on the back of the pews. Remember those? When cancer reared its ugly head (again) in 2018 and the prognosis was not looking very hopeful, she sat down and shared some thoughts about what some of those hymns taught her.
I really wanted to be here with you today, but since I knew I couldn’t, I prepared a few words ahead of time to share with you all.
Many of you know that I love hymns, and often I am amazed at the discernment and depth of the words. One that struck me last summer, perhaps in some way preparing me for this journey, is an old favorite from childhood—“For the Beauty of the Earth”. I have sung this for years, recognizing it as a hymn of praise and gratitude for all of creation—and in fact, it covers an awful lot of earthly existence in its lines. But I was caught up by the final phrase of the last verse one Sunday morning—it didn’t make sense to me as the words went by, so I went back to it. “…flowers of earth and buds of heaven.”
Buds of heaven?? I stopped to consider what that might be, and have not stopped since! My first thought was that flowers on earth are but buds of what they will be in Glory. But then I went on thinking about it, and it seems like most everything here on earth—all the good things, all the things we are thankful for—are only foretastes, buds, of Heaven. That has been a very exciting thought these past few months, and has set the background for so many glimpses into Glory.
Another light that came on for me was in the sixth verse of “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (Please, please sing ALL the verses!):
Hear him, ye deaf; his praise ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ; ye blind, behold your Savior come; and leap, ye lame, for joy!
I have always gravitated to this verse, looking forward to actually leaping for joy, but recently I realized that it is not about me, at all, but about the joy of being with Jesus, and I won’t be able to keep from leaping when I see Him! None of us will!
God, in His great mercy, gave her another four years after she wrote those words. I had a really hard time finding a video that did have ALL the verses. (I also learned in my research that there are many, many verses (like 18!) which I’m sure was not her intent!) This one was as close as I could find. “And leap, ye lame, for joy!”
1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
2. My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.
4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.
5. He speaks, and listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
6. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your savior come,
and leap, ye lame, for joy.