Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Friday in the Second Week of Lent: March 1, 2024

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last.

The great Anglican hymn writer Charles Wesley (of Love Divine and Hark! the Herald Angels fame) penned these words, part of Sunday’s closing hymn, shortly after his self-described conversion in 1738. Compared to other hymns in the 1982 Hymnal, the text is uncharacteristically intimate for public worship, describing Jesus as “lover.” Some have thought it better suited to private devotions. Even so, Wesley’s text is firmly rooted in scripture and the theological and intellectual traditions of his time. In chapter 11 of the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, we’re reminded that God sees our sins and loves us unconditionally despite them. The King James translation that Wesley knew reads: “But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord, thou lover of souls.”

Wesley’s hymn became widely used in the Methodist and American evangelical traditions of the nineteenth century. Although some are of questionable authenticity, there are many stories about this hymn. These include a story about soldiers on opposing sides of the Civil War laying down their arms upon hearing the hymn sung in battle. Regardless of the accuracy of such stories, the influence of this hymn in American religious life has been profound. The hymn reminds us that even in our warring, in our arguments, in our sometimes un-Christian behavior, God loves us; like a parent, God compels us to amend ourselves for the better.

Brent Erstad
Director of Music and Organist

Links to the appointed readings for today: