|Lexden LinkSummer 2012
Issue No 37
From our Minister
This month we look forward to a variety of events celebrating the queen’s diamond jubilee. It’s an amazing celebration as we look back over the 60 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and give thanks for her example and leadership. The last 60 years have seen many changes and so in many ways the Jubilee provides an opportunity for reflection as well as celebration.
Jubilee itself is not simply the celebration of an anniversary though. Its origins are biblical and the Old Testament idea of jubilee has much to teach us today. In Leviticus 25, God commands the people concerning times of rest and celebration and it is here that the people are commanded to celebrate a jubilee year every 50 years. The idea of jubilee is threefold; firstly there is freedom, secondly the return of land and people to their families and thirdly the idea of rest.
In a jubilee year the people of Israel were required to free any fellow Israelite who had become a servant in their household because of poverty, enabling them to return to their families and outstanding debts were cancelled. Farmland that had been sold, again because of poverty was returned to its owner (the price of land fluctuated accordingly when a jubilee year was near!) and people were encouraged to live simply, not planting crops to harvest, but instead living off what the land produced. It was a year of restoration and of rest which also prevented people from becoming too attached to land or possessions and enabled them to remember their reliance on God. Jubilee had principles of justice as those in bonded labour were freed and also allowed for that time of reflection as people rested from their labour in growing crops and renewed family bonds. It was also a year of challenge as people had to let go of valuable land and labour and to rely on the land for food. My bible commentary contains an interesting footnote suggesting that the people found this command very difficult to keep!
I wonder what of these jubilee principles challenge or appeal to us? Certainly there is a lot we can learn about our attitude to worldly commodities from the jubilee principle in today’s world where there is so much debt. Perhaps there is also something we can learn about justice and mercy as we seek to tackle society’s debt problems.
Finally the idea of living simply seems to me to be a key to the idea of jubilee, reminding us that all that we have comes from God and to be thankful for the basics of life rather than consciously seeking more and more.
This jubilee perhaps you will be returning to your family to celebrate with them, or perhaps you are looking forward to a time of rest as we enjoy our extra bank holiday. However as we celebrate, perhaps we too can aim to include the jubilee ideals of justice, freedom and rest into our lives and to share them with others.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
“What am I offered, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A pound, a pound. Then two! Only two?
Two pounds, and who’ll make it three?”
“Three pounds, once; three pounds, twice;
Going for three…” But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As sweet as an angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand pounds, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
And going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of the Master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game — and he travels on.
He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.
This poem by Myra Brooks Welch (1878-1950) formed part of Jane’s Sunday morning service on Sunday 27 May.
Myra Brooks Welch is quoted as saying she heard a speaker address a group of students on the power of God to bring out the best in people. She said she herself became so filled with light and that “Touch of the Master’s Hand” was written in 30 minutes!
The finished poem was sent anonymously to the editor of her local church news bulletin. She felt it was a gift from God and didn’t need her name on it.
The Hymn Writers
An occasional series by Alan Beesley
Charles Wesley was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family. He was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, born at Epworth Rectory on December 18, 1707.
In 1716 he went to Westminster School, and then in 1721 he was elected King’s Scholar, and as such received his board and education free.
In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepened, and he became one of the first band of “Oxford Methodists.”
As a hymn-writer Charles Wesley was unique. He is said to have written no less than 6500 hymns. Although some were of unequal merit, and have since been forgotten, those that have stood the test of time have done so on their own excellence. His feelings and thoughts on every occasion of importance found their best expression in a hymn. His own conversion, his own marriage, every festival of the Christian Church and scenes from Scripture all furnished occasions for the exercise of his divine gift. It would not be possible to enumerate even those of the hymns which have become really classical.
I will just mention my favourite – Love Devine, All Loves excelling. It first appeared in Wesley’s Hymns for those that Seek, and those that Have Redemption (Bristol, 1747). It was apparently intended as a Christianisation of the song “Fairest Isle” sung by Venus in Act 5 of John Dryden’s operatic play King Arthur. Compare the words when you have the opportunity.
This was originally sung to the tune ‘Westminster’ although nowadays we are more familiar with the livelier tune of Blaenwern, composed by William Penfro Rowlands (1860–1937)