"Built on a Rock" is one of my favorite hymns because I think it outlines exactly how we are experiencing church in 21st century America. Many of our steeples are "falling"—if not literally, than at least metaphorically as membership declines, finances plummet, and congregations of all kinds struggle to carry on. Much can be said and much has been written about our communities of faith should approach these challenges as we continue to discern ways to join God's mission in the world more effectively in this age.
This hymn by Nikolai Gruntvig—a pastor, bishop, theologian, and reformer of the 19th century Danish church—moves the focus for turning things around away from potential implementation of great brainstorms and instead turns to remind us of God's promises in Christ. To follow Jesus is not ultimately about an effective strategic plan or finding the appropriate mission focus for our context. It is answering Jesus' question, "Will you follow me?" with a resounding "Yes."
The last verse assures us, when steeples are falling and the whole world seems to be crumbling around us, that continuing to answer Jesus' call to follow with a "yes" can give us the confidence to face any challenge. "I know my own, my own know me, you not the world, my face shall see, my peace I leave with you. Amen." Each time I sing these words I get chills. They inspire me to get back at it, to think more clearly, to love more deeply, to connect with others more fully as we get back to living the gospel in a world that would forsake us. This hymn conjures up a vision of Christ standing beside us, patting us on the back, and saying, "Carry on church, I am with you."