Friday, March 2, 2012

Dear God: There were bells on the hill, but I never heard them ringing. No, I never heard them at all till there was You.

[Editor’s note to atheists and all other uninterested parties:
Fall out. Take a break. You can go over behind the chow hall and smoke ’em if you ’got em. Be back here ready to re-assemble at oh-eight-hundred hours. Or, if you want to, stick around. You might hear something you like.--RWP]

I think I have mentioned before that one of my tasks at church is working with a children’s handbell choir. While trying to think of something appropriate for the children to play on Palm Sunday, I thought of an old song and, after Googling its title, found a beautiful rendition by a group of adults you may have heard of.

Here is “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (5:21). Even though I am not a Mormon, I love the sound of this choir. I hope you will, too.

If you weren’t able to understand all the lyrics in the video, here they are:

Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.

First let me hear how the children stood round His knee,
And I shall fancy His blessing resting on me;
Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace,
All in the love light of Jesus’ face.

Tell me, in accents of wonder, how rolled the sea,
Tossing the boat in a tempest on Galilee;
And how the Maker, ready and kind,
Chided the billows, and hushed the wind.

Into the city I’d follow the children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand.
One of His heralds, yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas, “Jesus is King!”

According to the Cyberhymnal, the words were written by Will­iam H. Park­er in 1885 for his Sun­day school stu­dents at the Chel­sea Street Bap­tist Church, New Bas­ford, Not­ting­ham, Eng­land. The music, written by Fred­er­ick A. Chal­li­nor, was published in Stories of Jesus in 1903 for a com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by the national Sun­day School Un­ion in Lon­don. I don’t know who arranged the version for choir and pipe organ in the video, but I found it uplifting and quite a pleasant listening experience.

Cyberhymnal also has a fifth verse, rarely heard, that was not included in the video or any of my hymnals. During this period called Lent when many Christians are contemplating events in the life of Jesus that led to his crucifixion and resurrection, it may be the most appropriate verse of all:

Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain.
Show me the cross where my Savior for me was slain.
Sad ones or bright ones, just so they be
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.

After the children have finished playing their bells on Palm Sunday (sort of like these people, only happier), maybe we’ll sing this song as a congregational hymn.