Preparing for Worship – R.G. Huff.
“Safe and secure from all alarms.”
For most of us, the only alarms that go off in our neighborhoods are to alert us of approaching bad weather, especially tornadoes. For the people in Kyiv, Mariupol, Odessa and other Ukrainian cities, the sounding of alarms indicates incoming missiles, prompting those who are able to move their children and elderly into basements, tunnels and subway stations.
I wonder if any of those people huddled beneath the streets, clustered into families and friend groups — perhaps faith groups — find themselves singing, “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near.” And then the refrain: “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms” — even the oft-sounded alert to run for your life.
I asked a pastor friend of mine in Ukraine if they sing this hymn, and indeed they do — this text translated, set to the same showalter tune we sing.
I realize that I am more prone to turn to the hymnal in times of extremes than most parishioners, but at both ends of my emotional spectrum, I tend to find myself calling up a fragment of a long-learned hymn to express my highest joy and deepest despair. I suspect, were I caught in a time of warfare, I would also turn to hymnody as my source of hope.
I am concerned that we not put these oppressed people on the back burner, relegating them to “just another world concern.” They still suffer daily. Their freedom is being usurped daily. Citizens are losing their lives daily. We must keep them at the top of our prayer lists daily.
At the close of our service today, you and I have the opportunity to sing this hymn together. It is one of those “Old Songs” Milton talked about last Sunday, so we all know it almost “by heart.”
Picture it, if you will: We are closely held — embraced — by the strong, everlasting arms of the Savior. We lean toward the heart of the One who loves us and enjoys holding us; and we lean outward, still leaning on those everlasting arms as we face whatever lies ahead.
As we sing about the strength of this church’s fellowship and the bright path we walk together day after day, pay particular attention to that final stanza. Don’t “sing it like you mean it.” No, “sing it because you mean it.”
Situated against the arms of the Everlasting One, we have no cause for dread or fear. The peace of Christ is near. Lean into it.