Sunday, March 07, 2010

A New Hymn; "Fr Paul's Song"

I have subjected my congregation to the following song for the past few weeks. It made its debut on the First Wednesday in Lent following Ash Wednesday as part of our Lenten Discipline. While we explore the "Interior Castle", as Teresa of Avila instructs us to do, I thought it good to have a song to focus our thoughts and prayers as well. The song finds its focus on the Emmaus Story that comes to us from the 24th Chapter of Luke's Gospel. That Easter Day, several disciples found themselves on the road to Emmaus when a stranger came along and walked some distance with them as their "companion". At first they did not recognize him. But he opened their minds to the scriptures, and ultimately broke bread with them. It was then, in the breaking of the bread that he suddenly vanished, and it was then that they came to recognize him as the Christ. Thus in a biblicaly ordered life we find ourselves directed to recognize the Christ in many, friend and stranger alike and in greater humility within ourselves as well.
The second verse recognizes that love cannot be divided and is of course the greatest gift of all, much as Paul's Hymn to love suggests to be the case. (1 Corinthians 13)
The third verse hearkens to Matthew 25 verses 31 and following where Christ is recognized in the "least of these"; the homeless, the hungry etc. When we see the Christ in these we minister not just to the poor we minister to Jesus himself.
The fourth verse is based on a growing understanding in the church that when we are in Christ we are no longer divided by race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. Many of us base this on the mandate we see in Galatians 3:25 and the context that this verse arises out of. It is a powerful statement. I realize that a vast majority of the faith community world wide refuses to read this biblical material, but I have always lived my life in a biblically ordered way. I will continue to do so and cannot allow a few verses of Leviticus or a misunderstanding of Romans 1 cloud or deflect my obedience to scripture.
The Good Friday event is universal. Jesus stretched out his loving arms on the hard wood of the cross so that all might come within the reach of his saving embrace; after all, "he is the perfect offering for our sins but not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world". (1 John 2:2)
The final verse of the Hymn is really a bit personal, I must say but biblically ordered as well. Some of you know I recently had a bout with prostate cancer, and had surgery in a rather tender spot. My son Joshua and I had one of those long heart to heart conversations during my convalescence that struck a chord with me. He was puzzling over some of the many references to Job he had come across throughout literature. Given the nature of my own vulnerabilities, the subject of suffering seemed timely for both of us. So much human literature devotes itself to the mystery of suffering and simply hold it "out there" for us all to simply witness often without answer. But, said I to Josh, there is an answer; God speaks forcefully and decisively in Job, Chapter 38. It is a wonderful passage and is worthy of reading in its entirety (as is the whole Bible, by the way...the WHOLE Bible...not just the parts you like). In Job 38, God gets a bit put out with all the talk of suffering and who is to blame and why things are the way they are. Then with purely powerful rhetorical proclamation God tells Job to "gird up your loins and stand up like a man and TAKE IT". I must tell you, this spoke powerfully to Joshua and me both. It took Joshua's breath away on the spot and mine as I thought more and more of it.
It was in the wake of all this that I penned the following words. They are my song pure and simple. There is nothing complicated about it. It is just who I am and who I understand God to be. I picked a tune that is very un-Episcopalian. It is a very simple tune to go with the words. I like it a lot. Some others do too. Folks have encouraged me to share it, so here it is.

Fr. Paul’s Song

Come, Lord Jesus our Companion, awaken hope along the way

In Broken Bread and Holy Scripture, be known to us and with us stay.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

One in Christ we come to greet you, friend and stranger we’ll not hate

Love can never be divided: race, class, gender; gay or straight.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

In the homeless and the hungry, may we see your precious eyes;

Give us courage, house and feed them, Lest we miss your heavenly prize.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

Your sweet children and the orphan, all the refugees of war,

Women, gay folk and the outcast stand and knock at Christ’s own door.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

Jesus arms are true and constant, gathering in the wayward tossed

With a Mother’s true compassion not one soul shall ‘er be lost.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

At the end of life’s grand journey, Gird our loins with your good power;

Make us mindful of your goodness, in the trials of that hour.

Refrain,

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; walk with us Emmaus’ Way

Jesus, Jesus how I love you; speak within my heart I pray.

Words: “Fr. Paul” Bresnahan (1945- )

Music: William J. Kirkpatrick (1838-1921)

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