“O Master, Let Me Walk with You,” ELW 818 and LBW 492
1 O Master, let me walk with you
in lowly paths of service true;
tell me your secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.
2 Help me the slow of heart to move
by some clear, winning word of love;
teach me the way ward feet to stay,
and guide them in the homeward stay.
3 Teach me your patience; share with me
a closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong.
4 In hope that sends a shining ray
far down the future’s broad’ning way,
in peace that only you can give;
with you, O Master, let me live.
“Help me bear the strain of toil, the fret of care.” The words belong to a hymn and prayer familiar to us all. I wish I’d had it as a church council devotion the night we heard a community organizer speak about how our congregation could impact local social justice issues. The words of the hymn are right on track for our struggle with that calling.
The hymn’s author is Washington Gladden. Born in 1836, he came into his calling as a pastor during the abuses of power in the Gilded Age. Responding as a pastor, he helped negotiate strikes and was a leader in breaking up the infamous “Tammany Hall” political machine. A verse missing from this version of the hymn told about Gladden’s frustration with critics of his social gospel ministry. When Gladden’s work for social justice is part of our calling, help us put aside any frustration and work for the good of others.
God, Jesus was many things to us, and his work for justice for others was often foremost. When you call us to that same work, help us to be clear of mind and purpose to see you in all your children. Amen.