Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fanny Crosby and the Parables (part 3)

Fanny Crosby

I picked Fanny Crosby as one of the interpreters to discuss in the book primarily because of her popularity. Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and a few other hymn writers were in the running, especially since I thought that their lyrics might have more depth. For several reasons, however, I decided to include Crosby and was a bit surprised to find a bit more complexity than I expected.  

Some of Crosby’s hymns integrate multiple parables, such as “Will Jesus find us Watching?” (1876). The first stanza echoes elements of the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins—with its reference to trimmed lamps, for example—but it also includes elements of the Watchful Slaves parable, which symbolizes Jesus’s return at the end of the world (Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:35; cf. 12:41): The slaves are urged to be ready with their lamps lit so their master (Jesus) will reward them when he returns from the wedding feast (Jesus’s return at the end of the age):

When Jesus comes to reward His servants,
Whether it be noon or night,
Faithful to Him will He find us watching,
With our lamps all trimmed and bright?

O can we say we are ready, brother?
Ready for the soul’s bright home?
Say, will He find you and me still watching,
Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come?

The second stanza incorporates a third parable, the Talents, which, at first, might seem a rather disjointed way to continue the hymn. This stanza, however, builds upon the first because the parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) immediately follows the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). More important, however, is the reason it immediately follows the Wise and Foolish Virgins: Both Matthean parables symbolize Jesus’s return:  The Wise and Foolish Virgins allegorically explains that people should be ready for Jesus’s return, and the parable of the Talents allegorically begins to explain what people are to do in order to be prepared for Jesus’s return. So the second stanza of the hymn asks if Jesus will tell us “well done,” and the third stanza explains that if people do their best to live according to the will of Jesus, then he will reward them when he returns:

If, at the dawn of the early morning,
He shall call us one by one,
When to the Lord we restore our talents,
Will He answer thee—Well done?

Have we been true to the trust He left us?
Do we seek to do our best?
If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,
We shall have a glorious rest.

The final stanza reiterates the message of the previous one:

Blessèd are those whom the Lord finds watching,
In His glory they shall share;
If He shall come at the dawn or midnight,
Will He find us watching there?

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