DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. Titus 3:3
John Greenleaf Whittier was born into a poor Quaker family in Haverhill, Massachusetts, during the Christmas season of 1807. He worked hard on the family farm, receiving only scant education at the village school, but he fell in love with books and reading. At age 14, he borrowed his schoolteacher’s copy of the poems of Robert Burns, and soon Whittier was writing compositions of his own.
The editor of a New England journal became so impressed with the teenage poet that he made a long journey just to meet the lad and to encourage him to pursue a career in journalism. That proved the inspiration Whittier needed, and later at age twenty, he left home to devote his life to poetry, journalism, and literature, eventually becoming one of America’s best-known poets.
That’s not all he did. Few people realize that John Greenleaf Whittier was an ardent abolitionist who sat in the Massachusetts legislature, ran for Congress, and became one of the founders of the Republican Party
His first love, however, was poetry; and several of Whittier’s poems became popular hymns, though he once admitted, “I am really not a hymn writer, for the good reason that I know nothing of music.” In fact, being a Quaker, Whittier himself never sang in church. Others, however, set his poems to music and nearly a hundred of them wound up on the pages of popular hymnals.
His best-known hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,” came from an unexpected source. In April of 1872, having read about the Hindu religion, Whittier published a poem in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Brewing of Soma.” It told of the brewing of an intoxicating drink as part of a religious ritual in India in a foolish attempt to have a transcendent religious experience. Sometimes as Christians, Whittier suggested, we do something similar with our various services and ceremonies. “We brew in many a Christian clime, the heathen Soma still.”
Whittier ended his poem with a series of verses that began, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways,” in which he described the true worship that should characterize the church. In 1884, a hymnal editor named W. Garrett Horder extracted this portion of “The Brewing of Soma” and adapted is as a Christian hymn that still ranks as one of the finest ever written by an American author:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, / Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind, / In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
It is difficult for me to choose a favorite verse of this most reverent hymns, but perhaps today, it would be the second as it paints such a vivid picture of Jesus among his disciples around the waters as he called them into ministry, and they dropped everything and FOLLOWED!
In simple trust like theirs who heard, Beside the Syrian sea, The gracious calling of the Lord, Let us, like them, without a word, Rise up and follow Thee.
Do you know people in your life who simply stop what they are doing to do God’s work? It could be a phone call that offers comfort in a time of crisis or just an ear to listen to another’s concerns, a box of food for someone who is hungry, an offer of assistance to someone who needs help navigating today’s technology or so many other things. Perhaps too many of us are like the rich young ruler who counted the cost too great to leave privileged life to follow Jesus. In Luke 18:18-23 we read: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Are we just too busy or self-absorbed?
By the sea, Jesus called only a few to fall away from the crowd and learn from Him what the journey was to be. And yet, they did not always understand what was required of them, what would ultimately be required of Jesus himself. However, the seeds that were planted during those days have flourished and spread through geographical and philosophical boundaries to generations reaching all the way to where we are today. Let us remember, He came all the way to where we are. This just happens to be a line from a special song to me: “Reaching” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lnqHCIwFDM
Hopefully, during this Lenten Season of 2021, we are able to take his hand once again, or perhaps for the first time and listen to the directions he has for our lives. May we find ways to share what we learn with others to … do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
May you be blessed today, may you find Grace and Peace around every corner. Carolyn
Katherine Jenkins leads the singing in St. Davids Cathedral, shown on BBC Songs of Praise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y47vEE1zbDE
Virtual Choir https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em3SRPA-N8Q