The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
Lamentations 3:22-24, NRSV
"The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures."
John Newton, "Amazing Grace"
Greetings, on this day that the Lord has made! Like many others, I grew up hearing and singing a version of John Newton's famous hymn, "Amazing Grace." I say "version," because this hymn has been adapted over the years since it was first published in 1779. The hymn as I heard it in my home church came first from the Broadman Hymnal, which we used until I was a teenager; then from the Baptist Hymnal. This hymn became tattooed on my brain, as we sang it often, and enthusiastically. Growing up in a traditional Southern Baptist church, I experienced long altar calls nearly every Sunday, and "Amazing Grace" was a favorite of our pastor for altar calls. I took to counting how many times we'd sing through the hymn during a long altar call, and though I can't remember for certain now, I know that some Sundays we sang it through a dozen or more times (yes, really!). The hymn, "Amazing Grace," became for me part of what one friend describes as "one's musical canon."
So, imagine my surprise upon becoming Presbyterian and hearing a verse of "Amazing Grace" that I'd never heard, before (see, above)! I looked it up, and this verse is part of Newton's original hymn. Why it wasn't included in the version we sang from the Baptist Hymnal, I don't know. There was another verse we sang that I don't think is part of Newton's original hymn; this is what I mean by "versions" of this old hymn, that has been adapted over the years. In any case, the verse above spoke powerfully to me, and it has become my favorite. It echoes the words from the Old Testament book of Lamentations, "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." (3:24) The book of Lamentations is a collection of laments over the state of Jerusalem and its inhabitants following the overthrow of the city by the Babylonians in the 6th century, BCE. The third chapter reflects the desolation of the people there, and their attempts to make sense of what has happened to them. The speaker sees the hand of God in what has occurred, as punishment for sin, and yet proclaims the Lord's steadfast love and faithfulness. While you and I as contemporary readers may wince a bit at the speaker's attributing such broad calamity at the hands of other humans to God's willful actions, it's important to note the speaker's acknowledgement of the complete sovereignty of God. Whatever state they find themselves in, and however they got there, God has not forgotten them. God's mercies for them are "new every morning," as they are also new each day, for us.
"The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures." Can you claim these words from John Newton's hymn for whatever circumstances you find yourself in, today? I hope so. I testify to the truth of God's steadfast love for us, and for the delightful newness of God's mercies each day.
With blessings for your journey...
A few reminders:
This Sunday, May 27th - I'm just gonna say it. Memorial Day weekend is typically a time of low attendance at worship, so if you can come, please do, for the sake of us all. This happens to be Trinity Sunday in the larger Church calendar. No special colors for this Sunday, but we will have lapel stickers that say "3/1" (joking, there; no stickers!). The sermon text is John 10:22-30, and the sermon title is "The Father and I."
Next Sunday, June 3rd, I will be away for family vacation at Holden Beach, NC. This vacation week was booked several months before I knew I would be coming as your pastor, and if I could have planned otherwise, I wouldn't have been away from Sunday worship three times in five weeks. We've been delighted with two family weddings in May, and after June 3rd, I don't expect to be away again on Sunday for quite some time. Rev. Donald Marsden will be your preacher and worship leader on June 3rd. Please make him feel welcomed as he returns to Hebron.
Many thanks to all those who stayed after worship last Sunday for the youth Fiesta! Lunch & Talent Show. It was a fun time and a successful fundraiser for the youth summer mission trip.
If you know a child who could be blessed by being part of our Day School at Hebron, please encourage his or her parents to register for this coming 2018-2019 school year. They can go to the church website, www.hebronpresbyterian.com, for info about the Day School and contact information.
Remember our outdoor worship service coming up on Sunday, June 10th, at Dover Lake. There are rumors of donuts that morning. We'll see what transpires.
See you Sunday!