Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hymn of Promise

Here is another hymn! This one is for a dear friend of mine, Audrey Wenner!

Title: Hymn of Promise

Tune: Promise

Meter: 8.7.8.7.8.7.8.7

Author: Natalie Sleeth (1934-1992)

Composer: Natalie Sleeth (1934-1992)

        Born in Evanston, Illinois, Natalie Sleeth began her musical career at the young age of four years old, a decision that would take her far and make her very well known. Several years down the road, in 1952, Sleeth earned her Academic Degree in Music Theory as well as her BA in Music Theory from the Wellesley College in Massachusetts. It was here that she would meet her future husband, Professor of Homiletics, Rev. Ronald E. Sleeth. In her lifetime she earned two honorary Doctorate degrees, one from the West Virginia Wesleyan School (1959), and the second from the Nebraska Wesleyan School (1990, only two years before her death). Her most famous anthem, "Joy in the Morning," was written in 1977 for the West Virginia Wesleyan Chorale on the occasion of her husbands inauguration as President of the University. Although "Joy in the Morning" is her most famous work, her second most famous is "In the Bulb there is a Flower," or "Hymn of Promise."
          Written as an Anthem , "Hymn of Promise" was later dedicated to Sleeth's husband shortly after he was diagnosed with Cancer. After hearing the hymn, Ronald Sleeth requested that the hymn be sung at his funeral. Honoring his wishes, the piece was performed at the funeral, being the only piece written by Natalie Sleeth to be sung at the ceremony. The anthem was written for Pasadena Community Church, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where it was first sung and performed in 1985 under the direction of C. Fredrick Harrison. This hymn was very popular in the United Church of Canada Hymnal; Voices United (published in 1996), as well as in the United Methodist Church Hymnal (published in 1989). The text for the hymn comes from Sleeth's pondering the opposition of Spring and Winter, as well as the opposition in a line found in a T.S. Elliott poem reading as follows "In the end is our beginning."

The Text:

1) In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

2) There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

3) In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.


My Take on the Hymn:

          God is a very mysterious man. He knows everything that goes on, as well as everything that will happen. Knowing the future is a knowledge that everyone seeks, but no one can seem to get a firm grasp on it. The only person who knows for sure what is going to happen in the future, is God himself. The first verse of this hymn is a wonderful reminder of this, especially in the final line "Unrevealed until its season, something God along can see." This reminds us that in the right time, things will be revealed to us by God, but until that moment, we must be patient with God and know that he has something planned for us. This hymn seems to focus on opposites, but only that within each negative, there is a positive, or within something we cannot yet see, there is a promise of something good to come.  The last verse talks about the end of our life, but in a way that shows there is a place greater than our earthly home waiting for us. In our death, we will still conquer the grave and join the multitude of angels in Heaven above! Though this hymn is usually sung at funerals, I feel that it has more of a meaning to it when placed in a position of dealing with the anxieties of uncertainty. 
         Being in college is a wonderful time, but there are certain things, such as the future, that cause students anxiety. What will I do next? Where am I supposed to go now? How do I know I am in the right Field? All of these questions cross every college students mind, but the answer is rarely found when we want to find it. God always has something planned for us, whether we know it or not, or whether we believe it or not, He really does. God even tells us this in Jeremiah 29: 11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Seeking for information about your future can be equated to trying to find the person you are supposed to fall in love with. If you spend so much of your time looking for the person, or in this case the career, you are supposed to be with, then you will not find them/it. The only thing that searching does is cause anxiety and cause you to miss out on the wonderful things that God has placed in front of you every day. One of the difficult things that God asks us to do is to let go of everything that is holding us back. If we stop looking for what it is we are supposed to be doing and start doing what it is we love, we will not only find God, but we will find ourselves to be better off and to be doing what God has intended us to do in order that we may worship Him and spread his Glorious Word! 

The Hymn:


If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!

Bibliography:

Pedai, Wiki. "PROMISE (Sleeth)." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.hymnary.org/tune/promise_sleeth>.

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