February 18, 2024

Call To Worship

I Come to the Garden Alone: 805

This was an account of a quasi-mystical vision by C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), a Pennsylvania-educated pharmacist turned gospel song publisher and writer, as he reflected on Christ’s resurrection after reading John 20. Though it is doubtful that this article will change the minds of many readers who either cherish or despise this hymn, perhaps I can place Miles’s song in the broader context of congregational singing and in the era of hymnody from which it comes.

How does this hymn fit in the greater understanding of Christian hymnody and congregational singing? Everything we sing in worship has a point of view. The psalms comprise a body of literature that incorporates a wide variety of points of view. By point of view I mean, what is the perspective? Is the hymn written in the third person – about God, for example, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty”? Is it in the second person, addressing God directly as “You” – “Breathe on me, breath of God”? Is the hymn in the first-person plural, “we” – “Shall we gather at the river?” These points of view are the easiest to incorporate into public Christian worship. The use of “I,” “my,” or “me” – the first-person singular – requires more discernment. Some want to dismiss, out of hand, songs from this perspective from corporate worship. Yet, would not our worship be diminished if we did not sing Isaac Watts’ “I sing the almighty power of God,” Charles Wesley’s “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,” or the African American spiritual “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?”? Many hymn writers incorporate more than one perspective in their hymns. See for example, John Thornburg’s “God, the Sculptor of the Mountains” covers three points of view in a single stanza. Ultimately, when choosing congregational song for worship, the answer revolves around a balance of perspectives.

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Farther Along: 138

According to Wikipedia, “Farther Along” is an American Southern gospel song of contested signature. The song deals with a Christian’s dismay at the apparent prosperity of the wicked, when contrasted with the suffering of the righteous. The repeated theme is that “farther along”, the truth will be revealed.

There are several attributions for the authorship of this song. The oldest known print edition is in the 1911 hymnal Select Hymns for Christian Worship and General Gospel Service; its only attribution is “Arr. B. E. W.”, referring to the hymnal editor Barney Elliott Warren.

The song has also been recorded by Hank Williams, Glen Campbell, Van Dyke Parks, Pete Seeger, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Mississippi John Hurt, Bill Anderson, Ellen McIlwaine, Smoking Popes, Josh Garrels, Brad Paisley and the Million Dollar Quartet among others.


Why Did My Savior Come to Earth: 784

He was inquisitive, that much we know. Maybe even puzzled, or bewildered, you might say. But, that type of thinking led him toward an answer as he pondered several parts of Jesus’ biography, and as he composed his response in “Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?” in 1892. James Gerald Dailey had some talent for composition and music publishing, and would spend his life between several locations as he spread the message of God through the music he must have loved. But, what was he encountering in 1892 that made him ask questions and dwell on the answer he found?

A few details of James G. Dailey’s life are known that tell us he was someone who wanted to propagate the truth about God through the music medium in the eastern United States in the latter 19th and early 20th Centuries. He was born in Delaware in the mid-1850’s, and must have lost his father early on in life, as he is known to have moved with his mother to Brockwayville (known today probably as Brockway), Pennsylvania around age 18. It’s a small town in north-central Pennsylvania, not far from Punxsutawney, and today is part of the national historic culture of that region because of a nearby railroad and its many stops near there (like the one pictured in nearby Scottsville here in 1874, as it might have appeared to the Daileys). What would make this mother and her son go to a small town like Brockway is not known. Perhaps they had a family connection there. We can guess that his mother may have played an influential part in his musical development, one which led him to write some 15-20 songs over his life, and publish at least three works, including one of which compiled some songs for use in worship while he and his mother lived in this small-town environment. It was during the Daileys’ life there that James also composed his hymn with the question mark. Later on, in the latter years of the 1800s and early 1900s, James lived in Freedonia, New York and then in Philadelphia. He apparently especially appreciated the God-Son’s love for him by the time he was 38 years old, as he marked 20 years of living with his mom in small-town north-central Pennsylvania. Can you imagine James and his mom, from a rather humble, obscure area? Perhaps James felt he didn’t really stick out as anything special, a theme that is apparent in his prose. Why’d he come to earth for me, this nobody from nowhere, and go through hurts and sorrow like I have? And, why did he decide to die for somebody like me? James’ questions have but one answer. Love.

James answers that Jesus gave His life because of this love…a thought we might often limit to appreciating how this was manifested during His execution. But, perhaps James Dailey was thinking of more. He seems to appreciate that the incarnate God also gave up His life the whole time He was here. When He was born in the manger, when He was scorned by the multitudes for befriending ‘sinners’, and when He experienced the distress of everyday living in the 1st Century, He was sacrificing then too. Would it surprise us if Jesus was longing to be in heaven again at those moments? Is that maybe why He spoke of His Father’s kingdom so much, because He missed it so? He loves me so, James Daily reminds me. ‘I’m nobody’, James might have been saying, but somebody in Brockway, Pennsylvania made him realize that that’s who Jesus came to find and take back with Him. Feeling insignificant, small, and obscure? Come join the rest of us!

Communion Meditation

It Won’t Be Very Long: 346 (Brandon)

A song which encourages us to be ready when the Lord comes is “It Won’t Be Very Long” (#380 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #343 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Morgan Williams.  I have been unable to locate any further information on this individual, except that Hymnary.org ( http://www.hymnary.org/person/Williams_M6) identifies him (or her?) as the author of some 36 different texts.  The tune was composed by Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. (1885-1941).  Bartlett also provided both words and music for “Just a Little While” (1938) and “Victory in Jesus” (1939).  “It Won’t Be Very Long” was copyrighted in 1928 by Bartlett and owned by Stamps-Baxter Music and Pgt. Co.  After its renewal by Stamps-Baxter, it is now administered by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing Inc.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Churchedited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.


I’ll Live in Glory: 315 (Brandon)

A song which reminds us that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed is “I’ll Live in Glory” (#662 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #455 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by John Melvin Henson (1887-1972).  Born in Curryville, GA, Henson began teaching in singing schools in 1909, and with Homer Morris formed the Morris-Henson Company.   “I’ll Live In Glory” was first published in 1936 in Songs of Praise No. 5.  It was assigned to R. E. Winsett Music Co. of Dayton, TN, in 1943, and from there passed to Ellis J. Crum of Kendallville, IN.  Henson is perhaps best known for “Watching You” (1915) and the words to “Anywhere Is Home” with music by Homer F. Morris (1929).

Another Henson text, “Happy Am I” with music by J. E. Marsh (1930), has also appeared in some of our books.  Henson died in Atlanta, GA.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “I’ll Live in Glory” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

Announcements & Closing Prayer