Dear Hyde Park Family,
The greatest Pentecost hymn you’ve never heard of was written by Dr. Henry More, an 18th century British theologian that one contemporary called “the most holy man he ever knew.” One of his poems caught the attention of a young Anglican preacher named John Wesley, who included it in the very first hymn book that he and his brother Charles put together for the people called Methodist. Note the vivid imagery and rich descriptions of the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
You may choose to hum these lyrics to the tune of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” or the “Old 100th” Doxology:
“On the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost”
On all the earth Thy Spirit shower;
The earth in righteousness renew;
Thy kingdom come, and hell’s o’erpower,
And to Thy scepter all subdue.
Like mighty winds, or torrents fierce,
Let it opposers all o’errun;
And every law of sin reverse,
That faith and love may make all one.
Yea, let Thy Spirit in every place
Its richer energy declare;
While lovely tempers, fruits of grace,
The kingdom of Thy Christ prepare.
Grant this, O holy God and true!
The ancient seers Thou didst inspire;
To us perform the promise due;
Descend, and crown us now with fire!
You can almost feel the intense heat and the bracing winds, as if we were with the first Christians 2,000 years ago. But here is where the story gets really interesting. John Wesley, always the consummate perfectionist, did a bit of tinkering to Henry More’s original poem, and inserted two verses of his own in the original 1739 songbook:
Father! If justly still we claim
To us and ours the promise made,
To us be graciously the same,
And crown with living fire our head.
Our claim admit, and from above
Of holiness the Spirit shower.
Of wise discernment, humble love,
And zeal and unity and power.
For John Wesley, it was not enough to simply observe the presence of the Holy Spirit among us. He also believed that Pentecost requires us to participate in the Spirit’s work. Because of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to follow Jesus with the same five-fold commitment expressed in the last two lines: wise discernment, humble love, zeal, unity, and power.
So, as we pray for another “Spirit Shower” at Pentecost this Sunday, ask yourself: How are you measuring up to those five standards?
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist