Suggested Hymns

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

November 22, 1998
Proper 29(34)

Unifying Theme:
God promised. God delivered.
A thief asked. Christ delivered.
All righteousness is fulfilled in Christ.

Scripture Theme Hymns
Jeremiah 23:1-6 God will send a righteous Branch 247: O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright
374: Standing on the Promises
Luke 1:68-79
Psalm 46
Zechariah rejoices--God has come to redeem
God is always with us
110: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
203: Hail to the Lord's Annointed
Luke 23:33-43 The courage of one thief 528: Nearer, My God, to Thee
530: Are Ye Able
Colossians 1:11-20 Jesus Christ is ______ 154: All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
155: All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
193: Jesus! the Name High over All

Featured Hymn
Nearer, My God, to Thee

Hymn #528
Words by Sarah F. Adams
Music by Lowell Mason
Tune Name: BETHANY

This is the final Sunday of the year on the church calendar. We have come full cycle, and next week we will be lighting Advent candles in preparation to celebrate Jesus' birth. Before we lose sight of this year, though, let's remember that we have lessons to learn in our lives today. The Lectionary passages for this week include the Gospel story of Christ on the cross. There are soldiers. They are playing games of chance to see who will get Jesus' clothes. There are leaders. They are jeering at Christ. There are many more people, also jeering. There are two more men very near to Christ. They are thieves. One of them joins in with the crowds and leaders and jeers at Christ.

The other thief is different, though. You might think of him as one of the unlikely heros of the Bible. We don't know his name. We don't know his family. We don't know his crime. We don't know where he might have been buried. We don't know anything about him except that he was suffering execution and believed he deserved it. And yet he had both the boldness and the humilty to face Christ to ask Him, "Please remember me." In the midst of His pain, cutting through the shouts and insults being hurled at Him, Jesus said the words that every follower of Christ wants to claim. He said, "You will be with me in paradise." You can't get much nearer to God than that!

Few hymns have attained the level of recognition enjoyed by this week's featured hymn. Perhaps the recognition stems from reports that the band on board the RMS Titanic played this hymn as that great ship was sinking in icy waters of the north Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps the recognition stems from Hollywood producers who have had the hymn played and sung in movies about the Titanic. An interesting web page at discusses this hymn and its association with that tragic event.

Perhaps, though, the recognition stems from the words and the message delivered in the verses of this hymn. From the outset the writer, Sarah F. Adams (1805-1848), sets a somber mood. "E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me." There is almost a dread chill in those words as you read them in context. But then, how often do we think about those "unlikely heros" like the second thief? What would a hymn like this one have meant to him? Would it have actually been a joyful declaration?

Consider the teachings of our faith. "There is none rigtheous, not even one." "The wages of sin is death." Aren't we in the same position as the thief? Sing these words through his eyes.

1. Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
2. Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
yet in my dreams I'd be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
3. There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
4. Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
so by my woes to be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
5. Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

The year has come to a close. May you be nearer to God today and every day.

God bless you--

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Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.