'Jesus Calls Us' over the hullabaloo

Built on a Rock

One of my favorite hymns is “Jesus Calls Us.” The hymn begins with “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult.” Tumult refers to commotion or confusion; agitation rather than calm.

       I was curious, so I looked up synonyms for “tumult” in a thesaurus. One of them listed was “hullabaloo.” Hullabaloo is a word I remember my mom using. You could say that Jesus calls us over the hullabaloo. Maybe that could make a good modern version of the song.

       “Jesus Calls Us” was written by a woman named Cecil Frances Alexander, a poet and writer who was married to a pastor named William Alexander. She was very talented and prolific, writing more than 400 poems and hymns during her lifetime.

       Once, when she was teaching Sunday school, one of her students asked her if she could explain the Apostles Creed. As a result, she was inspired to write a trio of hymns. One of them is “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” which comes from “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” She also wrote “Once in Royal David’s City” to explain, “He was born of the Virgin Mary.” And to explain the death of Jesus, “He was crucified, dead and buried,” she wrote, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” All of those are classic Christian hymns.

       On Nov. 25, 1852, she wrote a poem inspired by the sermon her husband had preached that morning. When she showed it to him, he asked her to come up with a hymn related to the message for the next Sunday about Jesus calling the disciples.

       She thought for a while and then wrote “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult.” … Jesus calls us over the hullabaloo in our lives.

       The tune it is paired with is called “Galilee” because Jesus called the first disciples when they were beside the sea of Galilee.

       The song is not really as much about Jesus calling those first disciples as it is about Jesus calling us to follow him and to be his people today. It is present tense and personal: Jesus calls us and he calls us over whatever commotion, confusion, agitation or busyness we might be engaged in.

       “Our life’s wild restless sea.” That’s a great metaphor for human life: a wild, restless sea, especially in this time of pandemic and protest. So it’s good news that Jesus can call to us over the hullabaloo!

       Jesus’ call is persistent and ongoing, saying, “Christian, follow me.” Jesus … calls … us …. Jesus calls us, persistently, in an ongoing way that’s meant to draw us near.

       I recently read an observation about Christ’s call and love. The author said, “Just as a planet rushing through space is only a comet or meteor hurtling through space until it is caught by some central sun and begins to revolve around that sun as its center, so my life is an aimless comet burning itself out in self-will until it finds the pull and attraction of Christ’s love and then revolves around him.”

       Jesus calls us, over the hullabaloo that we so often experience as part of the human condition. That is a source of great hope!

       The song ends by recognizing our need for the grace of Jesus Christ and asks for help in hearing and heeding the call of Jesus. “Jesus calls us, and by your mercies, Savior, may we hear your call and then serve and love you best of all.”

       In these challenging days, may we hear Jesus over the tumult of times.

      

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