Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Take Time to be Holy

I read an interesting article this afternoon in the Leadership Journal, an on-line service of Christianity Today. In it, editor Gordon MacDonald share his thoughts on the old hymn "Take Time to Be Holy." Here is what he says in part:

In the early 1880s, William D. Longstaff wrote a poem that later became a hymn called "Take Time to Be Holy." In my branch of church tradition, we often sang this hymn. As a kid I considered it uninspiring (sorry, Mr. Longstaff), and I groaned whenever the song leader announced it. Today, decades later, I have taken a fresh look at the song and reconsidered my earlier appraisal. There's substance here.
Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord,
Abide in him always,
And feed on his word.
Make friends of God's children;
Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing his blessing to seek.

There are three more verses to Longstaff's hymn, and the second verse is also worth quoting:

Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
With Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus
Like him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct his likeness shall see.

Each line of that second verse prompts an objection from somewhere within and helps me to understand why holy people tend to be scarce.

"Take time …" But I don't have time.

"The world rushes on …" And I am busy rushing with it.

"Spend much time in secret …" Secret? I like to brag about anything I do with and for Jesus.

"With Jesus alone …" Huh? And turn off my iPod and text messaging?

"Like [Jesus] thou shalt be …" I'd rather imitate Bill or Rick or Andy.

"Thy friends in thy conduct his likeness shall see …" Don't expect me to be that kind of example.

Despite its Victorian English, Longstaff's hymn does a pretty good job of describing the essentials of what it takes to become holy.

Becoming a holy person is intentional; you have to work at it. When God says to Israel, "Consecrate yourselves," he is putting the ball in our court. In other words, pursue whatever it takes to be a holy man, a holy woman, a holy nation.

MacDonald goes on for a few pages, discussing what it means to be holy and why holiness is such a rarity. I found the article so interesting that I will share some of it with the staff tomorrow at our morning worship. If you're interested in reading the rest of this discourse, you will find it here. Meanwhile, enjoy the beauty of natural holiness in this morning's sunrise (the first outside of my condo, the rest at school about 8 minutes later).


Ruth said...

I have come to like this hymn very much. I hope it says in my head a few days after reading this post.

Patty said...

there is a wonderful blog http://holyexperience.blogspot.com
she writes about the holy experiences in every day life.

Britt-Arnhild said...

Beautiful photos.

This hymn is unknown to me here in Norway.