2 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,[b] as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
This week I read this hymn as part of a devotional I read. I invite you to read it through and keep track of your own reaction to the words. How does the hymn make you feel? What do you like about it? What do you find challenging about it?
Lead On, O King Eternal” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book 805)
1 Lead on, O King eternal! The day of march has come;
henceforth in fields of conquest your tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation your grace has made us strong;
and now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.
2 Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
for not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
but deeds of love and mercy the heav’nly kingdom comes.
3 Lead on, O King eternal: we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning where’re your face appears.
Your cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light;
the crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might!
When I read the hymn I found myself negatively reacting to what I saw as militaristic language. I confess that the first verse put me off and I was about to skip the rest and move forward. The more I read, the more convinced I was that this was hymn for those heading off to war and it was not a hymn I would like to sing.
Then I learned that this hymn was written by a young preacher just about to graduate from seminary in the late 1800s. Ernest Shurtleff wrote the hymn to describe the challenges of faith in this world. He was reflecting on how peace, love and mercy would bring about God’s will for the world and how he, as preacher might go forward.
Read the hymn again, knowing the writer’s intent. What does the hymn say to you now? How does it make you feel?
Knowing that about the hymn opened my eyes in a whole new way. I now see the beauty of lines like “holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace” and “Your cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light.” They are the same words I read earlier, but know where they were coming from made all of the difference in how I heard them.
So often we interpret people’s words and ideas based on what we think they might mean. Our own experiences, fears and preferences can work to shape something into something it was never meant to be. Like I did with the hymn, we dismiss ideas and people, all too quickly, when we make assumptions and judge rather than digging deeper.
It’s worth going deeper. It’s worth asking questions and checking in with people BEFORE we make assumptions about what they are saying or the “tone of their voice.” It’s worth exploring the meaning behind things and the reason something came into being. Taking the time to listen, to ask, to share, to learn can make a difference in how we see the world and how we see one another.
It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to talk and believe poorly about people. God calls us to more.
God, you know and I know that I’m not always open to people and experiences. I judge and I dismiss before I even try to understand. Open my eyes, my mind, my heart to discover the grace in another and to see how you are working through them. And work in me….that I may give grace to those I meet. Amen.
To Listen and Sing
This was one of the hymns someone imagined Jesus singing. I didn’t know it and it’s so beautiful!
 God Pause, June 13, 2020.