“Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat”

john newton

We sang two John Newton hymns during our morning worship today and neither one of them was “Amazing Grace.” The first hymn was “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder” which has that marvelous line, “when through grace in Christ our trust us, justice smiles and asks no more.” And, because Pastor Nick was preaching on prayer from Philippians 4:4-9 we also sang the less familiar, “Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat.” It is a marvelous hymn that describes Christ’s invitation to us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat
where Jesus answers prayer;
there humbly fall before his feet,
for none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea;
with this I venture nigh:
thou callest burdened souls to thee,
and such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
by Satan sorely pressed,
by war without, and fears within,
I come to thee for rest.

Be thou my shield and hiding place,
that, sheltered near thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
and tell him thou hast died.

O wondrous love! to bleed and die,
to bear the cross and shame,
that guilty sinners, such as I,
might plead thy gracious name!

 

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“There’s no business, like soul business.”

I have always been a fan of the Rev. Will B. Dunn and the comic strip “Kudzu.” Sadly the reason that the strip is so entertaining is because the writer has his finger on the pulse on what is called Christianity in the twenty-first century. This may be why the modern worship center looks alarmingly like a theater or a recording studio. Maybe there is “no business like soul business.” It is comfortable, it is entertaining, maybe it is even exciting; but I am not convinced that “comfortable, entertaining, and exciting” are necessarily prerequisites to Gospel worship.

In that context I think back to what I experienced yesterday when I gathered with God’s people. We sang hymns of praise that contained Biblical depth. We confessed our sins and heard the promise of forgiveness from God’s Word. The Bible was read publicly (more than just a snippet) because that is how God speaks to His people. A child was baptized and we were reminded of the grace of God that is ours through what Jesus Christ did for us through His obedient life and sacrificial death. We called out to God in prayer. We heard the Word of God proclaimed. We shared the Lord’s Supper together which again reminded us of God’s grace. Christ was pointed to as our hope again and again.

It wasn’t comfortable, but it brought comfort. It wasn’t entertaining, but it was focused on God, both who He is and what He has done. It wasn’t necessarily exciting, but it fed more than just the emotion; it fed the soul. I am grateful that God Sunday after Sunday reveals Himself to us through simple things like prayer, Word, and sacrament. Maybe it is “soul business” after all.