Sunday, May 04, 2008

shall we gather at the river?

It’s late and I’m restless. After the two deaths last week at our church here in Durham, word came that one of the dearest souls in the Marshfield church died unexpectedly. Grief, like my depression, sends me searching for songs in the middle of the night, mostly looking for old friends to comfort me. I found a few at church this morning in the hymns we sang. The postlude was "Shall We Gather At the River."

ere we reach the shining river
lay we every burden down
I rode the river of new technology tonight that is YouTube, finding all sorts of old friends camped out along the way. Somewhere in my sojourn, I landed on a song I had not thought of in years, perhaps: Gary Chapman’s “Sweet Jesus,” a haunting melody that captures the paradox of faithful grieving and the kind of hopeful suffering Ginger preached about this morning, following 1 Peter’s lead:
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (4:19)
Here are the lyrics:
Sweet Jesus

There is a river running through this town
It carries the water
There isn't any way to slow it down
Or make it stop
I was a baby when the big bridge fell
So I don't remember
But I have listened to the stories well
And so I know
They were falling
To the surface
They were calling
To their God
And their cry was

Sweet Jesus, please won't you catch us, save us
Sweet Jesus, please won't you hear us crying

Fishing for luck beneath the bridge that day
A man in his eighties
He saw it happen and began to pray
As he dove in
He found a mother and a baby boy
They both wouldn't make it
The mama handed him her only joy
He took the child
Then he was swimming
Like he was twenty
He made shoreline
Then he died
And his thoughts were

Sweet Jesus, please won't you catch us, save us
Sweet Jesus, please won't you hear us crying
He was crying

I miss my mother and the brave old man
Though I never knew them
They are the soul inside the man I am
I bear their dreams
And I am walking
In their footsteps
I am talking
To their God
And my cry is

Sweet Jesus, please won't you catch us, save us
Sweet Jesus, please won't you hear us crying
Sweet Jesus, please won't you catch us, save us
Sweet Jesus, please won't you hear us crying
We're all crying

There is a river running through this town
It carries the water
There isn't any way to slow it down
Or make it stop



Yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river, gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.

Peace,
Milton

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can hear your voice in those words, Milton. Very comforting. Hugs. Molly

Songbird said...

How sad and beautiful.

dg said...

I miss Gary Chapman's writing and voice...thanks for your voice as well...it is a consistent, comforting source of sanity in a mad, mad, mad world.

...also, randomly... didn't know if you noticed, but our buddy Danny O'Lannerghty is playing the stand-up bass behind Chapman in the video.

dg