Year B – Epiphany 6 – Ah, Jesus Lord, Thy Love to Me

Ah Jesus Lord, Thy love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Oh bind my thankful heart to Thee
And reign without a rival there.
Thine, wholly Thine alone, I live;
Myself to Thee, entirely give.

O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.

O Lord, how gracious is thy way!
All fear before thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away
Wherever thy healing hands arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!

This love unwearied I pursue
And dauntlessly to Thee aspire.
Oh, may Thy love my hope renew
Burn in my soul like heavenly fire!
And day and night be all my care
To guard this sacred treasure there.

Oh draw me Savior, ere to thee

So shall I run and never tire

With gracious work still comfort me

Be thou my hope, my soul desire

Free me from every guilt and fear

No sin can harm if Thou art near.

More hard than marble is my heart,
And foul with sins of deepest stain;
But Thou the mighty Savior art,
Nor flowed thy cleansing blood in vain;
Ah soften, melt this rock, and may
Thy blood wash all these stains away!

Still let Thy love point out my way;
What wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my word, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that love is near.

In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Lord Jesus, in that vital hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died.

 Have you ever had to give a toast in someone’s honor?  It is not an easy thing to do for many of us.  Well imagine having to give a toast for yourself … while standing before Christ at His feast!  This hymn is really just that.  It like a lengthy prayer requesting the deepest blessings of Christ’s love on the one praying it.  In the Psalmist tradition, this hymn is a prayer… sung.  It is highly a personal, highly devotional prayer of confession, dependence, and love that we will have the privilege of singing together in communion.  The main focus of this hymn is the love of Christ in both directions, Christ’s love of the singer and the singers’ love of Christ.  What could be better for a people like us, who are so prone to lukewarmness in our spiritual love, to learn and sing regularly.
The words were originally written by Paul Gerhardt, a German minister born near Wittenburg about a generation after Luther died.  Gerhardt endured a lengthy ministry that was heavily troubled by the tensions between Germany’s Lutheran and Reformed churches.  His legacy was one of perseverance and he is remembered by the slogan “a minister who was sifted by the sieve” – what a great perspective to own during times of trial – a perspective strongly expressed in this hymn.
A century later the two Wesley brothers set sail from England to America.  Charles was a gifted hymn writer, but John found that his stronger interest was in language.  During their long voyage to the colony of Georgia, John began to closely study the German language spoken by many of their fellow travelers.  At that time, there were many Germans immigrating to the Southern colonies of America and the Wesley brothers wanted to have a ministry among them.  As he studied, John translated several of the great German hymns into English.  This is one of them.  The tune we sing is a traditional American folk tune called by the name, slumber.  When I sing it, I can feel the rolling waves of their long sea voyage as well as the rolling hills and plodding hooves of their land travel.  There is also – as the name implies – a lullaby quality that lends it to singing while rocking a child to sleep or simply to praying away the last few conscious minutes of your own night.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loves us.
There are several links available online to listen to and sing along with.  One beautiful choir performance here: http://www.secondreformed.org/System/Media/Play.asp?id=42874&Key=9F1F3586-041B-4073-9FC6-69188F2567A9 and another of the Maundy Thursday performance as well as Michael Owens’ version at WordMP3.com.
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