(My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? – Matthew 27:46)
Last Sunday, Eric and Marcy sang a few verses from the wonderful gospel hymn “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” by Fanny Crosby. While this hymn is found in several United Methodist hymnals, it does not appear in either the LBW or ELW. My personal belief as to why it was not included is that we Lutherans are a bit too “rigid” in our meter to “slide” along with the gospel or spiritual styles. After all, we tend to clap on the wrong beat, and we move robotically whenever we attempt any new “Latino” hymn!
But the hymn’s exclusion may also have to do with its (perceived) theological baggage. At the surface, any notion that Christ would even consider “passing us by” simply flies in the face of our Lutheran tenet of “grace given freely to all who have faith.” But, if my years of attempting theological reflection have taught me anything, it is that the power of our theology lies not in the words, but rather in our interpretation of those words and the meaning we give to those words.
When I heard this hymn text, I immediately thought of the times when I have felt alone; separated from God. When my proverbial glass is more than half full, I know that it is I who hid from God; naked in the garden as God “passed by” calling my name. But when the glass is almost empty, all I seem to have left is that humble cry, “Lord, have mercy on me!” While it may not sound “theologically correct”, it is a very real human condition to place oneself at the center and surround ourselves with doubt.
Now a sound theology is also biblically based. Let’s examine this passage from Matthew 20:29-32:
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was [passing] by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
Clearly, faith had to be present in these men. If they had not believed in Jesus’ power, they would have remained silent, hidden in the darkness of their world. Instead, they began to shout and plead. So did Jesus stop simply because their shouts caught his attention for a moment and distracted him from his mission? Or was this his mission all along?
In the short time it may take you to consider those questions, you will have exercised and strengthened your personal theology. I encourage you to make this reflection part of your weekly worship routine. If you think you’d enjoy the support of a small group, talk to me about joining my EfM group. It is a great way to keep your faith healthy and growing!