Connecting Beyond the Walls

Today’s word of hope comes from our own Rev. Brent Greene, Interim Minister of Discipleship

During the past several weeks, my family and I have made frequent walks around the neighborhood. It’s amazing what we notice when we slow down, look closely, and listen carefully. Frequently, I see a variety of birds in flight or scampering to and fro. Cardinals, robins, house sparrows, and blue jays appear out of nowhere. Almost daily, I see our neighborhood geese crossing the street forcing many a car to crawl ahead slowly as drivers try desperately to avoid hitting them.

In so many ways, I’ve come to realize my lifestyle resembles that of certain species of birds. For example, I like the freedom of coming and going throughout the day sometimes with others but many times alone. Frequently, I live and travel alone or with my family but when needs arise I rely on my congregational flock and fellow friends to survive challenging times just as geese do as seasons change.

Dr. Hawn, professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, describes in detail the origins of a famous hymn, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” written by Civilla Martin. Civilla Martin describes the context out of which the hymn was born: “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.” The next day she mailed the poem to Charles Gabriel, a famous composer of gospel songs, who wrote a tune for it.

This hymn has inspired many Christians over the past hundred years. The themes of comfort in spite of sorrow, and a profound sense of being under the watch-care of Jesus, who is a “constant friend,” offered the African-American community comfort during the Civil Rights movement. The refrain seals the theme by offering an apology for singing—“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free”—words that would speak to everyone, but especially African Americans in the midst of fear and oppression.

During this time of global crisis and worldwide pandemic, this familiar hymn is one that I am relying on as well. How about you? I invite you to meditate, to listen, to claim this treasured hymn as your own. May we provide ourselves as a flock to one another and to our community when so many needs are present. May we realize that our God is watching over us in all circumstances as this hymn and Matthew 6 proclaims. No matter what happens, may we rest in knowing that we are loved and are called to love in these days of trials and tribulations.

 His Eye Is on the Sparrow
Civilla Martin
“Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely
and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is he;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.”

PC: Roper Halverson



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