“How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord”

As discussed in other posts, vocation or calling was the overall theme of the inspiring January 26th worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church.[1]

After the reading of the Scripture and the preaching of the sermon in the central part of the service—Listening for the Word—the last part was devoted to Responding to the Word. Two hymns and a choral anthem aided us in doing just that.

The first hymn was “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord,” whose words are the following:

“How clear is our vocation, Lord,

When once we heed Your call:

To live according to Your word,

And daily learn, refreshed, restored,

That You are Lord of all

And will not let us fall.

——-

But if forgetful, we should find

Your yoke is hard to bear,

If worldly pressures fray the mind

And love itself cannot unwind

Its tangled skein of care:

Our inward life repair.

——–

We mark Your saints, how they became

In hindrances more sure,

Whose joyful virtues put to shame

The casual way we wear Your name,

And by our faults obscure

Your power to cleanse and cure.

———

In what You give us, Lord, to do,

Together or alone,

In old routines or ventures new,

May we not cease to look to You—

The cross You hung upon—

All you endeavored done.”

The words of the hymn are by Rev. Frederick Pratt Green CBE (1903-2000), an English Methodist minister and hymnwriter. His hymns reflect his rejection of fundamentalism and his concern for social issues.

The tune for the hymn was composed by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918), an English underwriter at Lloyds of London before devoting himself to music as a composer, teacher and historian. While head of the Royal Academy of Music, his pupils included Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Parry named the tune “Repton” in honor of a friend who was music director of the Repton School, an English boarding school.

The second verse of this hymn really speaks to me. It addresses the difficulties we all face in carrying out our vocations. “Worldly pressures [too often do] fray [my] . . . mind.” And I do need repairs to my “inward life.”

This series of posts about a single worship service has enabled me to discover a greater depth in the service. Although Westminster’s order of worship allows me to see some of that depth with its emphases on preparing for the Word, listening for the Word and responding to the Word, my attention does sequentially shift from one piece of the service to the next. Moreover, although I like to sing and be part of the enveloping sound of the organ and the voices of the congregation, I find it difficult to ponder the meaning of the hymn’s words as I am trying to read and sing the musical notes.


[1] The Bulletin for the January 26th service is available online along with the text and an audio recording of the sermon and a video recording of the service. Other blog posts discussed that service’s (a) Prayer of Confession; (b) the “God be in my head” anthem; (c) the Scriptures and sermon for “The Vocations of Tabitha, Peter, Lydia and Paul;” and (d) the Scriptures and sermon for “The Vocations of A Pastor and Her People.” Clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.