Holy Week reminds us of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. While many of us have been sacrificing or stripping things away this season, as a way to walk more closely with God, sometimes those sacrifices are not welcome or our choice. Where is God in the midst of our unwilling and unplanned sacrifices?
“What A Friend We Have In Jesus” is a song loved by many. The story behind the song tells us an answer to the question: where is God in the midst of our unwilling and unplanned sacrifices.
Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1819. After he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin and became a teacher, he and his childhood love were engaged and planned their wedding. Then the unexpected happened. On the night before Scriven’s scheduled wedding, his fiancée fell from her horse while crossing River Bann and there she drowned.
The grief was more than he could bear, so Joseph moved to Canada to start over. There, he met and fell in love again, with Eliza Rice, and planned to be married. Again, the unexpected happened. Eliza became sick and died from her illness a few weeks before their wedding. Joseph then was only 25.
Joseph realized that he could only find the solace and support he needed in his dearest friend, Jesus. Through prayer and Bible study he found not just solace, but a mission. He dramatically changed his lifestyle, took a vow of poverty, sold all of his earthly possessions, and vowed to give his life to the physically handicapped and financially destitute. From then on, he would often give away his clothes and possessions to those in need, and worked for anyone who needed him, but was too poor to pay him. He became known as “The Good Samaritan of Port Hope.”
Ten years after Eliza died, Scriven received word that his mother had become very ill. Because of his vow of poverty, Joseph did not have the money to go home to take care of her. He wrote a comforting letter, enclosing this poem, titled as “Pray without Ceasing”. He prayed that these words would remind her of a never-failing friend she had in Jesus. This poem is what we know now as “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”.
Our life is always full of the unplanned and the unwanted. Time and time again, clearly during last eleven months, we are reminded by what happened in our life that, no matter what happened, we always have a never-failing friend in Jesus. Theologically speaking, God is immanent, omnipresent. Our life stories tell us that, as expressed in the verses in Scriven’s poem, God, our loving Father and creator, is in our prayers, in the friend we have in Jesus, and in the friendship and love we have in each other.
COLLECT OF THE DAY
Almighty God, through the incarnate Word you have caused us to be born anew of an imperishable and eternal seed: Look with compassion upon those who are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant that they may be built as living stones into a spiritual temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
LISTEN TO "WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS"
Click below to listen to Sarah McLachlan's version of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
WATCH "FRIENDS IN JESUS"
Click below to purchase the DVD "Friends in Jesus." This lovely DVD tells the stories behind two timeless hymns, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" and "There Is a Green Hill Far Away."
Click on the link below to purchase today's suggested read: You Are Already Praying: Stories of God at Work by Cathy H. George.