Saturday, June 1, 2013

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

Here is another hymn for the time of Pentecost!

Title: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

Tune: Thompson

Meter: and Refrain

Composer: Will L. Thompson (7th November, 1847- 20th September, 1909)

Author: Will L. Thompson

                Published by J. Calvin Bushey in the 1880 collection Sparkling Gems, Nos 1 and 2 Combined, both the tune and the text for “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” were written by Will. L. Thompson. After having numerous issues trying to sell his music to a few well known publishers, Thompson finally decided he was going to open his own publishing company, Will L. Thompson & Co. Originaly written as a hymn of invitation, this hymn was used by Dwight Moody as a welcoming hymn for his evangelistic meetings in the United States and in England (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 448). Carlton Young (Composer for “In the Singing,” with the tune “Bread of Peace.”) calls the text and tune “a typical lullaby in the gospel tradition that characterizes Jesus as a mother, gently rocking and comforting a child” (Westermeyer, p. 448). This hymn has caused much debate throughout the years, falling into the musical and hymnic divide that has been a characteristic of the church since the 19th century when gospel hymns had begun to be composed. This hymn is one that characterizes Jesus in a waiting, caring, and forgiving and intimate God (Shomsky, When it was originally published, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” had four stanzas, but in the Evangelical Book of Worship (Minneapolis, 2006), the third stanza is omitted, leaving the new hymn with a total of only three stanzas.
                Born in Pennsylvania but quickly moving to Liverpool, Ohio, Will Lamartine Thompson was a very well-studied musician, studying at Mount Union College, Ohio, the Boston Conservatory of Music, and in Leipzig Germany. After returning from Germany, Thompson was rejected by a publisher for trying to sell one of his pieces for $100, which in turn caused him to open his own publishing company (as mentioned before) under the name of Will L. Thompson & Co, opening offices in Liverpool, Ohio, and in Chicago, Illinois. After learning how to write easily accessible gospel songs, Thompson began spreading his work all throughout Ohio by traveling from town to town by horse and buggy, quickly earning him the nickname “The Bard of Ohio” (Westermeyer, p. 448). After growing up in the Christian church, Thompson became the music director for a Methodist church, and later became a Presbyterian in 1891 when he remarried after the death of his first wife. Known for his ability to never forget a tune or a text that he had in his mind, Thompson is quoted as saying “No matter where I am, at home or hotel, at the store or traveling, if an idea or theme comes to me that I deem worthy of a song, I jot it down in verse. In this way I never lose it” (, par. 1). At the end of his life, Thompson was in Europe with his family, but he fell ill and was forced to return home early. A few weeks after he returned home (in 1909), Thompson passed away in Ohio.

The Text:
(1)    Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.
See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Refrain: “Come home, come home!
You who are weary come home”
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, “O sinner, come home!”

(2)    Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

(3)    Oh, for the wonderful love he has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

My Take on the Text:
                This hymn hold great meaning for me, especially being a sinner who has turned to Christ. This hymn is one of reconciliation between Christ and his people. This hymn speaks volumes to the wonderful patience that God and Christ have for us as a people, waiting for us to turn to Him in our times of need. The first verse talks about Christ being patient and waiting for us to Him. I think of these times as our rebellious teen years. Though I didn’t ever want to do what my parents asked, nor did I want to follow any of the rules laid out before me, my parents still held fast in their ideas that I would learn, and that I would come eventually. Christ is the same way, giving each of us a calling and a Cross to bear, waiting for us to pick it up and follow Him. Sometimes, it can take people years of their life to come to Christ, but when they do, Christ probably would not say “It’s about time!” or “What took you so long?” but he would rather say “Welcome my Child!” The Second verse asks the question of why should we wait to take up or calling and or Cross when we know that Christ is waiting for us, and pleading to God on our behalf. Though Christ has all the time in the world for us to turn to Him, we, as humans, do not have infinite time. There is no time like now to turn away from a life of sin, and turn to the life that Christ has called us to live! The third verse talks about the wonderful love that he has promised us. The love that Christ has for each and every one of us her on earth is abundant, unfailing, and all encompassing. All we have to do to receive Christ’s love in full, is to give ourselves entirely to God, and whenever it is that we choose to do so, Christ will welcome us with open arms!

The Hymn:

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

                "Confession, Forgivenss." Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006. 608. Print.

Hymntime, .com. "Will L. Thompson." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 01 June 2013.
                Westermeyer, Paul. "Confession, Forgivenss." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 448. Print.

"Softly and Tenderly." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 01 June 2013.

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