A Sermon in Song based on the Hymn:
O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
George Matheson (1842-1906) told how this hymn came to be written. “The hymn was composed the day after my sister’s marriage. … Something happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.” Matheson had only partial vision as a boy. After he entered Glasgow University, his sight failed rapidly and be became totally blind at the age of eighteen. It is believed that this text grew out of his anguish in gradually losing his sight and perhaps from the additional pain of his fiancée breaking their engagement when she discovered his handicap. As his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) it made him strong in weakness; through these words he has brought comfort to countless fellow sufferers in their loss, stress, and personal sorrow. Although blind, George Matheson became pastor of the 2,000-member St. Bernard’s Church of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1886.
The four key words of the hymn are Love, Light, Joy, and Cross. These words have been described as the total fulfillment for any believer whose life is totally committed to the will of God. In Songs in the Night, Gariepy describes how the hymn might relate to the feelings Matheson had at the time.
Stanza 1 – The young lady refused to marry him after learning he was blind. Out of that rejection he wrote of a love that was steadfast and unfailing.
Stanza 2 –Out of his blindness and physical darkness, he wrote “O Light that followest all my way.”
Stanza 3 – Joy overtakes pain; it is the rainbow against a cloud, emerging out of the storm.
Stanza 4 – Out of the dead earth springs a red flower, a symbol of passionate love and of self-sacrifice, endowed with the fadeless splendor or immortality. From the crucifixion of Christ comes life eternal.
Now we will emphasize the first phrase of each verse with similar thoughts from other songs. After each song title I have given the part of the verse that supports the idea. As you choose from the songs listed, you may sing the entire song or just the pertinent verse.
“O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO”
In the Sweet By and By – “For the glorious gift of His love”
O How I Love Jesus – “one whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe”
Pass It On – “That’s how it is with God’s love”
The Love of God
The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases
“O LIGHT THAT FOLLOWEST ALL MY WAY”
In the Cross of Christ I Glory – “the light of sacred story” – “light and love upon my way”
Lead Kindly Light
My Stubborn Will – “a light has risen to cheer me”
Sunlight – “with the sunlight of His love”
There’s A Garden – “It glows with the light of His presence”
“O JOY THAT SEEKEST ME THROUGH PAIN”
All The Way My Savior Leads Me – “a spring of joy I see”
Each Step I Take – “what joy to walk with Him each day”
Fairest Lord Jesus – “my soul’s Glory, Joy and Crown”
Glory For Me – “Joy like a river around me will flow”
God Is The Fountain Whence – “He fills my heart with joy”
Heaven Came Down – “with joy I am telling”
Into the Heart of Jesus – “Into the joy of Jesus”
Wonderful Love of Jesus – “a joy by day”
“O CROSS THAT LIFTEST UP MY HEAD”
Abide With Me – “Hold Thou thy cross before my closing eyes”
Out of My Bondage – “into the glorious gain of thy cross”
The Old Rugged Cross
There Is A Gate – “A radiance from the cross”
There Stands a Rock – “That Rock’s a cross”
Where the Gates Swing Outward – “I’ll exchange my cross for a starry crown”
Sermon in Song prepared by Paul Brown (1929-2017)