Be Thou My Vision

Series: Turbulence

Link to sermon video: Be Thou My Vision - T Siverd

Link to the song video: Be Thou My Vision


Sermon By Terry Siverd / May 24, 2020 / Cortland  Church of Christ

Good morning.  Our recently revised re-start date in now June 21st

We are told by behavioralists that it takes several weeks to create habits (old and new).  I'm confident that our temporary absence from our assemblies is not going to spawn apathy.   And we surely hope that this interruption will not result in producing waywardness.  I have not encountered a single person within our church family who has given any hint whatsoever that they prefer this new arrangement - - virtual worship or worship at a distance.  Some have expressed their gratitude for the audio-visual presentations of the sermon. It's a cyberspace version of “meals on wheels” - - the bread of life delivered right to your home. But I've not heard anyone sitting around saying, “I like this not-going-to-church situation.”  Hopefully, one of the blessings to stem from the last few months is the realization that THE CHURCH is not the building, it is THE BODY and that body is constituted by we the people.  So, even though our kirk (Scottish for church building) may be temporarily closed, our church remains open.

During these challenging times, I find it calming to recall an incident recorded in Mt.16:13-19.    Jesus asked His disciples, Who do people say that I am?   They responded:  some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah...Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.  Then Jesus zoomed in to make His original inquiry all the more personal:  “But who do YOU say that I am?   Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.   And Jesus assured His apostles:  Upon this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Haley Wildman sent a text to Jeannie the other day saying that young Nicolas had expressed sadness that he wasn't able to be with his church friends and that he couldn't wait to see everybody again.  I trust that the Wildman lad has vocalized and magnified our group sentiment.

As we pointed out in a previous message, this is a good time to pray.  Js.5:13 states, Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praises.

  We must not permit our present circumstances to rob us of our cheer.

The New Testament introduces a novel concept:  joyful trials.  Js.1:2 states:  Consider it all JOY, my brothers, when you encounter various TRIALS.  In a similar vein, 1Pet.4:13 yokes together two unlikely words:  rejoicing and suffering.  Like prayer, the gift of song ministers to us both in times of joy and trial.  In fact, these two elements of worship are tightly intertwined.  Many songs are prayers.  Augustine is noted for having said, “He who sings, prays twice.”

To help us in these times of stress and strain, I have urged us to SING and to PRACTICE WHAT WE SING.  We have so many wonderful hymns that provide tremendous comfort and exhortation.  Previously we referenced two:  Be Still, My Soul and Be With Me, Lord.

This morning I want us to dwell on the words of a third song, Be Thou My Vision.

Jeannie bought some fabric at Joann's this past week.   She also bought me a gift - - a “bees nest” - - you hang it near your garden to encourage pollination.  If I could offer a somewhat corny illustration:  this trilogy of songs (all starting with a “BE”) - - Be Still, My Soul … Be With Me, Lord … and Be Thou My Vision - - all three of these hymns offer good nesting places for our minds, hearts and souls.

In Philp.4:8, the apostle Paul urges us to focus our minds and hearts on noble things:  whatever is true & honorable … whatever is right & pure … whatever is lovely & of good repute … If there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

To meditate on this song, Be Thou My Vision, compels us to think on a higher plain.

For some inexplicable reason this song is missing in our current Hymnal, Songs Of Faith And Praise.  It was in our previous one, but not our current hymnal, our the largest ever with a 1,000+ songs.  I know editorial decisions have to be made, but the omission of this grand hymn was a really bad choice.  We have posted an a cappella rendition of this song on both our church's website and Facebook page.

I can't think of any song better equipped to help us find stability in the midst of vulnerability than this ancient hymn, Be Thou My Vision.

Let me offer a brief sketch of its origin and then we will focus on the marvelous words of the song.  We can neither speak at length nor absolute clarity and certainty about its history.  The hymn, Be Thou My Vision, comes from the eighth century.  It is an anonymous old Irish hymn sung to an old Irish folk tune (Slane).  This prayer was transliterated into English prose (from the Old Celtic Irish) by Mary Byrne in 1905, and then a few years later (1912) it was versified with rhyme and meter by Eleanor Hull.

Be Thou My Vision is one of the oldest and most beloved hymns in all of Christendom.

We have a number of older hymns that we continue to sing that date back 300 years or so. Doxology (#66) - 1674 … Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing (#226) - 1758 … Amazing Grace (#129) - 1773.  One of my favorites (a golden oldie) is, O Sacred Head (#318), which dates from way back in the 12th century.  But the granddaddy of them all is, Be Thou My Vision, which seems to be rooted in the 8th century.  Some speculate that this song my have been written by an Irish Christian who experienced blindness in later life.  A few have suggested that it was connected with an Irish Christian poet named Dallan.  Others surmise that this hymn was related to the life of a young man named Patricius (Saint Patrick).  Patricius was enslaved by the Irish Celts as a shepherd for six years, during which time he awakened to God.  To escape from Ireland, he fled 200 miles to the south and boarded a ship to Britain.  While in Britain he claimed to have experienced strong urgings to return to Ireland to preach the gospel of Christ.

It has a exceptionally melodic tune, but it is the verbiage (the words) that make this song so wonder-ful.  Whoever wrote this prayer-song crafted a magnificent hymn, wedding theological and devotional lyrics.

This old hymn has the sound of Scripture.  The words and structure seem to appeal to a text recorded by Jeremiah the prophet (Jer.9:23-24) - - Thus says the Lord, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom,and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows MEthat I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the Lord.

After we conclude this brief message, I want you to go directly to the song and sing it.  Think deeply as you articulate the words of the songs.  Don't just mouth the words, really mean them, sing this grand hymn with geuine heart-felt pathos.  This hymn exalts God and longs for the all-sufficiency that only God can provide.  For the song writer God is not just an abstract thought, He is VERY REAL AND PERSONAL.

How great it would be if we could all capture the mindset of this song writer.

Vs 1 / GOD IS - - My Vision … Lord of My Heart … My Best Thought … My Light.

Vs. 2 / GOD IS - - My Wisdom … My True Word … My Great Father.

Vs.3 / GOD IS - - My Buckler … My Sword … My Dignity … My Delight … My Soul's Shelter … My High Tower … The Power of My Power.

Vs.4 / GOD IS - - My Inheritance … First In My Heart … My Treasure.

Vs.5 / GOD IS - - The High King of Heaven … The Bright Heaven's Sun … The Heart of My Heart … Still Be My Vision … The Ruler Of All.

Frequently, we find ourselves feeling vulnerable and this might be especially the case of late.  Many across the globe have become very sick and thousands have died in rapid succession.  We are not certain what the future holds:  When will things get back to normal?  Will there be a new normal?  Will our church soon return to the days of hugs, handshakes & kisses?  Will we be able to sing together, talk face to face without a mask, share again in covered-dish luncheons, play together and hold hands in praying together - - and if so, when?

My exhortation to all of us is to stay focused:  To fix our eyes of God and Christ (Heb.12:2).

Our vision must be centered on The Almighty One.

Only when we do this will we be able to find the stability in the midst of vulnerability.

After we close in prayer this morning, I want to urge you to open your Bible and read slowly and prayerfully from the 121st Psalm.  If you have not yet listen to our message posted yesterday, please do that as well.  It is posted on our website and is titled, The Lord Is Our Keeper. 

Dear Heavenly Father,

  To You, our Creator and our Keeper, we lift up our eyes.

With reverence, we boldly call upon You to do as You have promised:

to be our keeper - - to guard our going out and our coming in.

Through Christ, Who keeps His flock safe, we pray.  Amen

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