“O Jesus, I Have Promised,” ELW 810 and LBW 503
1 O Jesus, I have promised to serve you to the end;
remain forever near me, my master and my friend.
I shall not fear the battle if you are by my side,
nor wander from the pathway if you will be my guide.
2 Oh, let me feel you near me; the world is ever near.
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
but, Jesus, then draw nearer to shield my soul from sin.
3 Oh, let me hear you speaking in the accents clear and still
above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will.
Now speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
now speak and make me listen, O Guardian of my soul.
4 O Jesus, you have promised to all who follow you
that where you are in glory your servant shall be too.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve you to the end;
oh, give me grace to follow, my master and my friend.
The singer of this hymn may do well to ask, “What is this referring to? When precisely did I make this promise to serve Jesus to the end?” My own (frightening) first thought was, “Wait a second. Is this about my confirmation?!”
How fitting that John Bode, it turns out, did indeed write this hymn on the occasion of the confirmation of his daughter and two sons. Ah, confirmation: that age-old ritual of adolescents making questionably sincere, little understood vows according to a schedule preordained for them—if not by God, then at least by the grown-ups, who must be satisfied.
Well, perhaps authenticity isn’t everything. If we meant our promises only quarter-heartedly then, we may have come to mean them more since. We know the battle now; we know how many other roads there are besides the narrow one. We need help keeping our word, Lord!
Jesus, my master and my friend, thank you for those who led me to promise to follow you and tried to prepare me, even if I had little idea what I was doing. I am still learning. Please guide me and help me to be true. Amen.