On faith: Abide with me
By: From Reverend Susan Berge, Knife River Lutheran Church, Lake County News Chronicle
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour. What but thy grace can foil the temper’s power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
As I write this article, we are heading into the final week of June; the calendar assures me that spring has turned into summer, but it’s been a cool and rainy (even snowy!) spring, and a wet, dreary beginning to summer. I have, at times, found myself feeling as emotionally gray and foggy as many of the days have been, but I’ve also noticed a line from a hymn keeps running through my mind: “Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.”
This is a line from “Abide with Me”, a hymn written in 1847 by Henry Lyte, an Anglican priest. For much of his life, Vicar Lyte served in Lower Brixham, in Devonshire, England, along the coast. Lyte was a walker, forever hiking along the sea coast, not unlike many of us may do along the coastline of our inland sea, Lake Superior. It was as he walked that he typically composed his sermons, poems and hymns. But, Lyte had his share of struggles, too. Like many in his day, he had a chronic lung condition; the damp winters along the coast made it worse. At the age of 54, on Sept. 4, 1847, he struggled into his village church to preach, with difficulty, what was to be his last sermon. That afternoon, he walked along the coast in prayer, then sat down in his study and wrote the words to this hymn in about an hour’s time. He died shortly thereafter. The hymn was sung for the first time at his memorial service among the fishermen of his village of Lower Brixham.
“Abide with Me” has always been a favorite hymn of mine, and knowing the story behind the lyrics makes it even more meaningful to me. Along with reflecting the struggles and faith of Henry Lyte, this hymn is based on a Scripture verse from the Gospel of Luke, a verse found in the story of the two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus and meeting the risen Christ, although they don’t recognize Him at first. As they approach their home, they invite Jesus to join them for the night: “Abide with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.” This Bible verse provided the inspiration for the first line of the hymn, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens.” So, this hymn is actually based on an Easter story, on an encounter with the risen Christ. It’s a story about walking with Jesus, eating with Jesus, and inviting Jesus into our home.
Certainly, this story and this hymn encourage us to reflect on questions like these: Are we aware of Jesus walking beside us on the many roads we travel? Do we invite Jesus into our homes, our daily lives? Do we thank God for His enduring and abiding presence with us, in all the seasons of our lives—even in the seasons of drear, rain, and fog? Understandably, we long for sunshine, but as this hymn reminds us, “Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.” Regardless of storms, external or internal, God abides with us.
Rev. Susan Berge is pastor at Knife River Lutheran Church. She lives in Duluth, where she enjoys walking and gardening, and she is very, very ready for warmth and sunshine this summer!