Posted by: rcottrill | January 17, 2014

Master, No Offering

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Words: Edwin Pond Parker (b. Jan. 13, 1836; d. May 28, 1920)
Music: Love’s Offering, by Edwin Pond Parker

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Dr. Parker had a long and distinguished career, as a pastor, a poet, a musician and a hymn writer, as well as a hymn book editor. In addition, he served as the Senate Chaplain for the state of Connecticut. In 1860, he became pastor of a church in Hartford, and continued that ministry for more than half a century. In 1888, Pastor Parker wrote the words of this hymn to conclude a sermon. He composed the tune as well.

This is a truly lovely and meaningful hymn. It is worthy of a place in any hymn book, and any congregation’s repertoire.

The first stanza makes reference to a woman anointing the feet of Jesus. This actually happened twice during His three years of ministry. Luke records the first instance (Lk. 7:36-39). The woman involved is called “a sinner” (vs. 37)–likely indicating she was a prostitute (cf. Matt. 21:32). She is not named. The second instance occurred in the little town of Bethany, and we know that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Jn. 12:1-8; cf. Jn. 11:2).

There has been an assumption by some that the woman in the earlier incident was Mary Magdalene. However, there is not a shred of evidence to support this arbitrary tradition. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Luke 8:1-3 as one of the women who accompanied Jesus in his travels. But it would be strange indeed for Luke, a careful historian, to fail to identify her by name a chapter earlier, if they were one and the same person.

However, this common inaccuracy in the hymn does not mar its beauty or limit its usefulness. It infringes on no doctrine. Consider a few things.

The Lord Jesus is no longer with us, as a physical presence. We cannot, as Mary of Bethany, or the other unnamed woman did, lay at His feet a gift, “costly and sweet” (CH-1). But “love’s incense” is possible and appropriate any time. Like the incense that arose from the golden altar (Exod. 30:1-3, 7-8), may the fragrance of our loving worship, and service for Him, continue to be offered up to the Lord.

CH-1) Master, no offering costly and sweet,
May we, like Magdalene, lay at Thy feet;
Yet may love’s incense rise, sweeter than sacrifice,
Dear Lord to Thee, dear Lord to Thee.

What are some of the things our service can accomplish? The next two stanzas offer some examples of this.

1) Strengthen those who are weak (CH-2). “Strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Job 4:3-4; Lk. 22:32; Heb. 12:12; I Pet. 5:10).

2) Encourage those who are emotionally distressed and down. Sometimes the right song, or devotional poem, or a gentle word, can “brighten” the day of those who are discouraged (CH-2; cf, Job 35:10; Acts 16:40; II Cor. 1:3-4).

3) Bring new hope to those struggling with fears (CH-3; cf. Ps. 42:5, 11; Isa. 43:1; I Tim. 1:1).

4) Minister peace and comfort to the sorrowing (CH-3; cf. Jn. 14:2-3; I Thess. 4:13, 18).

5) Scatter deeds of kindness and mercy, showing the love of Jesus to others (CH-2 and 3; Matt. 5:16; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 13:16).

6) Seek to win the lost to Christ (CH-2; cf. Mk. 16:15; II Cor. 5:20; I Pet. 3:15)

7) Point wayward sinners back to the Lord (CH-3; cf. II Cor. 7:10; II Tim. 2:25; I Jn. 1:9).

Is that not a valid and valuable list? If each and every child of God sought to do those things, what a vital ministry the local church would have to the glory of God! And Dr. Parker’s prayer is that we’d not only do it, but continue to do so until the Lord calls us home.

CH-4) Thus, in Thy service, Lord, till eventide
Closes the day of life, may we abide;
And when earth’s labours cease, bid us depart in peace,
Dear Lord to Thee, dear Lord to Thee.

1) Of the seven things listed above, is there something you could do today (or this week) to minister to someone in need?

2) In what ways does the Lord equip us to have this kind of ministry?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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