Trinity's Men and Boys' Chorus singing the sermon title's hymn: "Rise Up, O Men of God!"
Text: Genesis 18: 1-3; Matthew 10: 5-8
Father’s Day! The day the sermon’s title is a hymn that will become the invitation for men and boys to sing as the special music when the offering plates are passed. The day and the hymn remind me of Neal Allen who rarely attended on a Sunday morning even though his father sang in the choir and his mother was very active in the Church. But one Father’s Day Neal was in church and came forward to be a part of the Men and Boys’ Chorus.The hymn they sang was “Rise Up, O Men of God.”
When, in what we call “the prime of life,” illness make Neal a bed-fast patient in a care facility, unable to walk, he continually talked about the thrill of singing that hymn, which became the theme for his funeral.
Type the words into the webpage search bar and the first popup is posted by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, sung by the Brigham Young University Men’s Chorus. The hymn moved the former President of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, when speaking in Oct. 2006 to say:
“Brethren, you look like a shirtsleeve priesthood. .. ready to go to work…What a remarkable sight this is. This great Conference Center is filled to capacity, and our words are flung across the world. This is probably the largest gathering of priesthood men that has ever occurred. I congratulate you on your presence tonight.”
“Rise Up, O Men of God!” the same charge for Father’s Day, 2017, that will be raised by our small gathering of men and boys.
“Rise Up!” – in the spirit of the man who wrote the words.
William Merrill was born on January 10, 1867, in Orange, NJ. Later the family moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, and then back to New Brunswick, New Jersey where he w as graduated from Rutgers and then Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Upon his ordination in 1890, he became pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Chestnut Hill, PA followed by pastorates in Chicago, and New York City.
All give evidence to his being recognized as a prominent religious leader which included becoming the first president of the Church Peace Union, an organization of religious, academic, and political leaders aimed at promoting pacifism. His 1914 sermon titled "The Making of Peace" was hailed by Andrew Carnegie as "...one of the greatest sermons on peace that he had ever heard."
Merrill’s words for the hymn predate that sermon by three years, and were inspired when “Nolan R. Best, then editor of The Continent, happened to say …there was urgent need of a brotherhood hymn.” William Merrill said, “The suggestion lingered in my mind, and just about that time I came upon an article by Gerald Stanley Lee, entitled ‘The Church of the Strong Men.’ I was on one of the Lake Michigan steamers going back to Chicago for a Sunday at my own church, when suddenly this hymn came up, almost without conscious thought or effort.”
“Rise Up, O Men, of God,” as intended by the writer, a pacifist, to be sung by men and women, boys and girls, (for an updated copy now substitutes “saints” for “men.”), calling everyone to “Rise Up, …to serve “the King of Kings,” in a service William Merrill called “the way of life according to Jesus,” by walking “Where His feet have trod.”
The Scripture assigned for this Sunday in the Season of Pentecost, when the church is called to live the life of Jesus modeled in the first half of the calendar of the church, we witness an Old Testament scene:
by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.”
The “he” being Abram the one God was calling to Abraham, be the father of many nations, along with Sarah.
Together they host a meal for visitors who are the voices for God’s announcement of an impossible offspring which has Sarah laughing for she is too old to bear a child. She will later realize it will be God who has the last laugh, the laughter of birth, the beginning of the call to all families to rise up to live not to make war but to live in peace, meant to be modeled in 12 tribes, whose example will draw all nations to God. But the record reads hat they soon forgot and abandoned even rejected that calling as thy fought among themselves and went off to do battle with everyone around them. A sad story of a forgotten calling!
And so, God intervenes in a new Birth story, becoming the Father figure with Mary, who answers the call as she sings: (Magnificat)
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
He has given help to Israel,… Even as he spoke…to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
God in Christ choosing a “New Israel,” modeled in 12 disciples, called to rise up to go, not to the Gentiles nor to the Samaritans,
but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel..to proclaim the good news,
‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
A call to go to one’s own family and model the life of Christ, to be seen as a genuine witness, and therefore, a believable example for others to see, others, like Gentles and Samaritans; outsiders looking in and through what they see, be drawn in, knowing, as Jesus said it would be:
a hard calling, that calls for patience, endurance, learned and practiced in the company of Christ’s
people, Christ’s church “with strength unequal to the task” through Christ.
A Dad was picking up groceries with his 3-year old son riding in the shopping cart. The boy kept asking for a candy bar and the dad said, “Now, Billy, this won’t take long.” Aisle by aisle the boy’s volume increased and each time his dad kept his cool, saying, “Billy, this won’t take long.” By the time they reached the checkout the boy was screaming and kicking and the dad calmly said, "Billy, we will be in the car in just a minute and then everything will be OK." Another shopper followed them to the parking lot to praise the dad for his amazing patience ad self-control, to which the dad said, “His name is Wesley, I’m Billy.” Adapted from Roger W. Thomas, A Father's Faith
“Rise up, O men of God!” Rise up, exhausted, exasperated dads and moms, "Rise Up!" to the calling to be saints of God through Jesus Christ, to “tread where His feet have trod” beginning in our families, in our homes!
“Rise Up!” A sermon title and a hymn which on Father’s Day reminds me of Neal Allen, unable to walk,
and of the hymn’s writer, a pastor who was a pacifist.
“Rise Up!”to the thrill of the call of Christ to be today’s disciples who “follow where His feet have trod!”