Pass Me Not
August 5, 2018
Text: Luke 18:35-19:10
Song: Pass Me Not by Fanny Crosby
As we dive back into our series focused upon music we find ourselves with a hymn by Fanny Crosby, one of America’s greatest hymn writers. Born in 1820 and inspired by the 1857 Fulton Street Revival in New York City, Fanny Crosby invented a new type of hymn: the gospel song. She would go on to write the sound track for a war scarred nation; a nation increasingly exchanging doctrinal religion for a new found spirituality centered upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Even if you’ve never heard of Fanny Crosby, you’ve sung her hymns. Blessed Assurance – Fanny Crosby. I Am Thine, O Lord – Fanny Crosby. Praise Him, Praise Him Jesus our Blessed Redeemer – Fanny Crosby, To God Be the Glory – Fanny Crosby. And today’s hymn – perhaps slightly more obscure – Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior.
We’re going to play a version sung by a group of men living at The Bowery Mission in New York City. Fanny Crosby helped found The Bowery Mission in 1879 and they continue to keep her music alive in their daily chapel services. In 2006 there were some really good singers among the homeless men who lived at The Mission. A recording engineer friend of mine offered to make a little CD of the men singing some of the old hymns. He set up his equipment, they recruited an impromptu chorus and recorded about seven songs in a half hour. My friend James Macklin leads the singing.
Fanny Crosby’s hymn leads us to the gospel of Luke and the story of two men waiting on the side of the road for Jesus.
Two stories of healing, one on each side of the desert city of Jericho. Jesus is on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Its his final journey – he knows he will arrested and killed. We sense he’s in a hurry. Maybe he’s hoping to get to Bethany, the Jerusalem suburb where he frequently stayed, by nightfall. We know his plan is to pass through Jericho without stopping. Yet amongst the crowd two people demand his attention – a blind beggar who desires to see and a rich tax collector who seeks to celebrate his repentance. The first calls Jesus name. The second climbs a tree to see Jesus and is singled out by our savior. Both lead Jesus to halt his journey, change his itinerary and pay attention just to them.
Pass me not, O gentle savior
Hear my humble cry
While on others thou art calling
Do not pass me by
A plea, a prayer, a statement of faith. Yes, millions – perhaps billions – cry Jesus’ name ever second. Yes the road to Jericho, from Jericho is crowded with those who want Jesus’ attention. Yes we may be nobodies – a blind beggar ignored on the side of the road, a tax collector deemed unclean by the religious and despicable by his neighbors – but Jesus has time for us. We can cry out, Jesus will hear, Jesus will welcome us – give us relief.
Let me at thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief
Kneeling there in deep contrition
Help my unbelief
Trusting only in thy merit
Would I seek thy face
Heal my wounded broken spirit
Save me by thy grace
Zacchaeus must have been desperate to see Jesus if he was willing to suffer the indignity of climbing a tree. His change must have been genuine to commit to distributing half his fortune to the poor and refunding those whom he’d defrauded. A relationship requires action on our part. We approach Jesus with humility, with contrition, with absolute trust. A relationship requires action on Jesus’ part. The blind beggar requests to see again and Jesus gifts his sight. Zacchaeus, already changed, welcomes Jesus into his house and Jesus confers his blessing. In Christ’s presence we find healing for our wounded broken spirits. We are saved by unbounded grace.
Thou the spring of all my comfort
More than life to me
Whom have I on earth beside me
Whom in heaven but thee?
Prior to Fanny Crosby most hymnwriters would end their hymns with great doctrinal statements or calls to universal praise. Consider the ending of Joy to the World – written by the 18th century hymnwriter Isaac Watts in whose very long shadow Fanny Crosby labored:
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders and wonders of his love
In comparing the two we see how radical Fanny Crosby was. Our faith, our spirituality, is fueled not by God’s might but by God’s capacity for relationships. God’s lordship over the nations is less important than God’s capacity for relationship with each of us. God had time for the blind beggar on the side of the road. God had time for Zacchaeus up in the tree. God has time for me. Time to listen to me, time to heal me, time to love me, time to be with me.
Oh what blessed assurance we each can receive. Blessed assurance for Jesus is mine.