“Lead On, O King Eternal” (ELW 805)
1 Lead on, O King eternal! The day of march has come;
henceforth in fields of conquest your tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation your grace has made us strong;
and now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.
2 Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
for not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
but deeds of love and mercy the heav’nly kingdom comes.
3 Lead on, O King eternal: we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning where’re your face appears.
Your cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light;
the crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might!
In August of 1961, in hot and humid Miami Beach, Florida, the first triennial Luther League convention of the American Lutheran Church took place. Youth gatherings occur in summer in hot and humid cities for one simple reason: hotel prices are a bargain! As I was the youngest permitted to attend, my mother feared for my safety as I boarded the train in Minneapolis for the long journey south. I could never have guessed the historical significance of those few days.
One of the keynote speakers was a young black preacher. When word got out about his invitation, 600 letters of protest arrived in the office of David Brown, the director of youth ministry for the ALC. Hearing of the protest, this young preacher kindly disinvited himself. Not to be overpowered by bigots, David Brown flew to the preacher’s home to convince him to reconsider. He did speak. In fact, some suggest it was one of the finest speeches Martin Luther King Jr. ever gave.
At the closing of every session during that youth gathering we stood and sang this hymn, “Lead On, O King Eternal.” We sang with gusto: “With deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”
Lead on, oh Lord eternal. As your cross is lifted over us, may we faithfully journey in its light. Amen.