Monday, 14 October 2013

The sublimest motive for the smallest duty


It was good yesterday to sing the old Wesley Hymn, Forth in thy name O Lord I go. We sang a contemporary  tune which was composed by the prolific Graham Kendrick and wasn’t too difficult to get hold of. He has modernised the language (your rather than thy etc). He’s also made some minor additions which I think do capture the spirit of the hymn and enhance it.

I’ve written before about the value of hymns Apart from the value of singing them together with other believers as a kind of mutual encouragement, they can give such help to the individual believer when words are memorised and become part of the vocabulary of one’s faith. Indeed this very hymn was on my lips many times during my early years at medical school , often using the opening verses as a prayer for the day as I left my rather less than salubrious bed and breakfast in Clapham North.

Forth in thy name O Lord I go
My daily labour to pursue
Thee only thee resolved to know
In all I think or speak or do

I don’t think the sentiment here is to suggest that human interaction throughout the day is of no consequence. It is not a plea for a sort of other worldly mysticism. Rather I see it as a prayer that in all the contact and activities of the day there would be a sense of recognising the image of God in ones fellows, and a request to follow the leading of God’s Spirit, in thinking, speaking or doing.

The second verse perhaps expresses it more directly

The task Thy wisdom has assigned
O Let me cheerfully fulfil
In all my work Thy presence find
And do thy good and perfect will

It seems to me that a here is a similar thought to George Herbert’s,

Teach me my God and King
 in all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything, 
to do it as for Thee,

 Indeed may I cheerfully live my life under God’s wise and good leadership, and may I throughout the day have a recurring sense of God’s presence. And may I do all that I do in a way that pleases God my father. The Christian disciple lives every moment with an impetus to live life well-all of it and not just the 'religious' bits. As the Victorian preacher Phillips Brooks put  it, ‘Never fear to bring the sublimest motive to the smallest duty’

Here is the Kendrick version, with some lovely stills. The words are just a little different from Wesley's original.
  

Forth in your name O Lord I go

My daily labour to pursue

You, only you, resolved to know

In all I think or speak or do

In your name I go Lord

The task your wisdom has assigned

O let me cheerfully fulfill

In all my works your presence find

And prove your good and perfect will
In your name I go



Be glorified in me, Be glorified in me
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