Monday, July 08, 2013

Believing, behaving, belonging

This 19th century mission hymn followed the sermon yesterday at my church.

Hark, the voice of Jesus calling,"
Who will go and work today?
Fields are white and harvests waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?"
Loud and long the master calls you;
Rich reward he offers free.
Who will answer, gladly saying,
"Here am I. Send me, send me"?

It's got a singable tune in a good key that clips along at a steady pace, with the occasional dah-de-dah dotted rhythm to keep it interesting. I remember I enjoyed singing this as a child.

But to me it fell short as a response to the gospel lesson and the sermon preached on the sending of the seventy (Luke 10:1–11, 16–20):
Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” . . .  Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
I stopped singing for a stanza to figure out what I didn't like about this hymn. What made it seem so 19th century imperialist? I looked through the text to see if it said anything about the voice of Jesus calling folks to cure the sick or start hospitals, or about the fields being in poverty. Nope, it didn't. All people need, it seems, is someone to preach at them, or "tell the love of Jesus."

Words. They're important. But they're not much without a Word incarnate.

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