Over many years, John Bell has been a friend and colleague in ministry. Many will know
John as a wonderful poet and in particular as a great hymn writer and encourager of congregational song. Many years ago while I served my first church in the city of Edinburgh I was also a chaplain at a boys’ boarding school. On one particular Sunday I invited John to take the morning worship service in my absence. I knew it was a risk but one I considered well worth taking. John stirs things up for sure! At 8am on the Monday morning my phone rang and it was the Headmaster. I braced myself. The opening words from the Headmaster were to the point “When can you have John return?” John takes the ordinary and the obvious and with words and music is able to startle and surprise us, as he invites us to think afresh.
In the hymn The Summons written by Bell and Maule we experience John’s directness or rather Christ’s directness. Never being the same has at its core the transformative love and grace of God. This hymn is now sung the world over. Brace yourself as you prepare to read it, and in the link below, hear it sung to the wonderful traditional Scottish tune, Kelvingrove. I wonder what the hymn asks of you and me today?
John L. Bell & Graham Maule
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
help me to know
that you know, and speak my name.
show me how to play my part
in telling your story,
in living your truth,
in shining your light.
teach us all how precious
is this one gift of life.
awaken us to
the never ending journey
of following you,
to the never ending task
of loving our neighbor,
even the one furthest from us,
the one most different from us,
hear our prayer. Amen.