All Request Summer Hymn Sing
Go My Children
August 26, 2018
Text: Numbers 5:22-27; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 8, Galatians 4-5
Song: Go My Children With My Blessing by Jaroslav J. Vajda
This morning we return to our series on songs with a look at Go My Children, the song we sing almost every Sunday. We’ve pretty much memorized the first verse. As we shall see, the other two verses may be much more powerful.
In a moment we’re going to listen to a spine tingling version by the choir of Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Nebraska – but before we go there a note about liturgy – specifically benedictions; for at its heart Go My Children is a contemporary benediction – a final blessing at the conclusion of worship, a prayer rooted in one of the most ancient prayers known to have been preserved – the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Or, if you’d prefer, a slightly more contemporary prayer written by the apostle Paul. I’ve ended almost every service I’ve ever led with this blessing taken from 2 Corinthians 13:
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Through worship we meet God. Through prayers and liturgy, scripture and interpretation, songs and sacrament we feel God’s presence. As the service closes we hear a final prayer, a blessing, to remind us God’s not limited to this place, this building, this moment, but will go with us, be with us, through life’s ups and downs, victories and struggles.
With that introduction lets listen to an arrangement of Go My Children as performed by the Plymouth Congregational Church choir with organ and strings.
Ohio born Jaroslav J. Vajda wrote Go My Children in the early 1980’s – its one of over 200 hymns he wrote for the Lutheran Church between the late 1960’s and his death in 2008. He sets the hymn to a tune almost as ancient as Aaron’s blessing – Ar Hyd y Nos – better known as All Though the Night, a traditional Welch lullaby.
Here’s acclaimed Celtic singer Siobhan Owen singing All Through the Night for a special on ancient hymns produced for British television.
For centuries Welch parents have sung All Through the Night to their children as they tuck them in. The tune itself pushes away darkness, wraps us with a sense of safety, the security of divine presence.
To this ancient tune Jaroslav Vajda adds three poetic stanzas reminding us of who we are in Christ and what, ideally, we’ve experienced while in God’s presence.
First we’re reminded of our place in the family of God – or as Paul says in Romans
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God … and if children then heirs, heirs of God and join heirs with Christ.
Through baptism we’re marked by the Spirit, sealed – to use the official theological language – so that we become one with Christ. As an act of the Holy Spirit, baptism doesn’t wear off, it doesn’t fade, it can’t be undone, it can’t be negated. Once we’re adopted by Christ, we’re Christ’s forever. Nothing can separate us; or as Paul puts it:
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, no powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we meet Christ, when we come into the divine presence, what happens. In verses two and three Jaroslav Vajda reminds us of the worship service we’ve just experienced. Literally, each line of this hymn could be used as a bulletin heading for a traditional Presbyterian or Lutheran worship service.
As we enter God’s presence we humble ourselves and confess our sins, receiving forgiveness. We then hear God’s word, learning of his love, of Christ’s healing. Then we come to the communion table, experiencing our oneness through bread and wine. Finally we respond, growing in love, loving by serving. We’re filled by the Holy Spirit, comforted through our trials, transformed from a sadness to joy, from being burdened to being free.
To go back to the apostle Paul, this time from Galatians:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because we are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba! Father! We are no longer slaves, but children … set free by Christ.
Christ makes us free!
When my mom was dying of cancer she talked about not letting her cancer define her. Yes it was a demon literally eating away at her body, literally drowning her body with fluid. Yet cancer was never her identity. It never defined her. It never enslaved her. Each moment, each day of life has the potential to wear us down. The political news from Washington. The challenge of maintaining healthy relationships. Fears and concerns about money. Aching bodies. Hurting souls. Personal battles against personal demons. Fear of the present, of the future, of what will be for our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren.
Yet none of this must define us. None of this must enslave us. We’ve been swept up in Christ’s baptismal river. We have been made Christ’s own forever. We’re defined by Christ’s love, not by the world’s (or our neighbor’s) hate. We defined by Christ’s forgiveness, not by the world’s (and our) sin. We’re defined by Christ’s healing, not by the world’s (or our) sickness. We’re defined by life in infinite abundance, not by the biological, societal death march. So we can leave this place living new lives, different lives
- Lives as forgiven people
- Lives at peace, lives made pure
- Lives fed and nourished by God’s spirit
- Lives joyful and free.
We can go as children, with God’s blessing, never alone.