Posted by: rcottrill | October 3, 2014

We Bid Thee Welcome

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Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Keble, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

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Note: The tune by Dykes is a fine one. Another that is sometimes used with this hymn is Missionary Chant, by Heinrich Christoph Zeuner (1795-1857)–who took the name of Charles Zeuner, when he came to America. His tune is also used with Ye Christian Heralds. I personally like a newer tune called Smolan, by Eldon Burkwall (1928- ). The tune is found with the present hymn in the hymnal Great Hymns of the Faith. If your congregation is familiar with the hymn O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee, you could use its tune, Maryton, by Henry Percy Smith (1825-1898). It works very well with this hymn.

Montgomery produced the hymn in 1825, and his heading tells you the purpose he intended. He called it “Induction of a Minister”–later published with the heading “On the Appointment of a Minister.” Since this is something most local churches face at some time or other, the hymn is worth noting. It goes, stanza by stanza, through various duties of a pastor. The original had six stanzas, though only three or four are commonly used today.

T he coming of a new pastor to a local church is a major event. And one of the things it is wise to point out, early on, is what the expectations are–both of the pastor and his family, and also those of the congregation he will serve. My first pastorate was in a little country church, and I didn’t learn until my first winter there that the pastor was expected to come over about 3:00 a.m. each Sunday morning, to get the three wood stoves fired up. (Fortunately for me, the congregation soon after voted to put in central heating!)

Expectations. Or, we might use the word perceptions. What role do people expect the pastor to fulfil? How do they perceive what his ministry will be? James Montgomery’s hymn takes us through six of these that are worthy of our thought and study: a servant, a shepherd, at teacher (cf. Exod. 17:8-13), an angel (see note below), a watchman (cf. Ezek. 33:6-7), and a messenger.

CH-1) We bid thee welcome in the name
Of Jesus, our exalted Head.
Come as a servant, so He came,
And we receive thee in His stead.

The ascended (“exalted”) Lord Jesus Christ is Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23). The pastor comes as a representative of Christ, and he is there to serve, as was the Lord Jesus on earth (Mk. 10:45). Of course each of us is the be a servant of God (Rom. 12:1, 11), but this is especially emphasized with regard to pastors who are “serving as overseers” (I Pet. 5:1). The word “minister” that we used to refer to a pastor means servant.

CH-2) Come as a shepherd–guard and keep
This fold from harm of earth and sin;
Nourish the lambs and feed the sheep;
The wounded heal, the lost bring in.

As you will see, there is some overlap in these roles. The “shepherd” encompasses a number of them. “Shepherd the flock,” says Peter (I Pet. 5:2), a form of the Greek word poimen, which means shepherd or pastor. As pastors, we are to guard and keep the flock given into our charge. Montgomery’s original says we’re to keep them “from hell and world and sin.” However, if they are truly part of God’s flock, He has already delivered them from hell. I noticed that Great Hymns of the Faith has changed this to what I have above.

CH-3) Come as a teacher–sent from God,
Charged His whole counsel to declare.
Lift o’er our ranks the prophet’s rod
While we uphold thy hands with prayer.

CH-4) Come as an angel–hence to guide
A band of pilgrims on their way,
That, softly walking at thy side,
We fail not, faint not, turn nor stray.

In giving John messages for each of seven churches listed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, John is told to write “to the angel” of each church (e.g. Rev. 2:1). It is the Greek word aggelos, frequently translated “angel.” However, in a number of other places it is rendered “messenger” (cf. Lk. 7:24; Jas. 2:25), and I think that is the meaning here. These are the messengers from each church, each one representing the congregation, perhaps referring to the pastors.

CH-5) Come as a watchman–take thy stand
Upon the tower amidst the sky,
And when the sword comes on the land,
Call us to fight, or warn to fly.

CH-6) Come as a messenger of peace,
Filled with the Spirit, fired with love;
Live to behold our large increase
And die to meet us all above.

1) Which of these roles do you think is most significant, or most important for a pastor?

2) Which of the six do you believe is the most difficult for most pastors?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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