Sunday, January 31, 2016

184. Onesimus & Philemon Hymn

The full topic/title of this hymn is "Onesimus & Philemon; Honor in Humble Service." These "heroes of the faith" were a runaway slave and his master, both of whom (while separated) came to Christ through the apostle Paul, who then reunited them. The whole story is sketched out in Philemon, the briefest of Paul's New Testament epistles. As a last resort I could pair the hymn with a tune I have used before, CHRISTE, WAHRES SEELENLICHT; but I am hoping I can stir up one of my hymn-writing friends to contribute an original tune, and one better structured to make sense of the rhyme scheme.

Christ, to serve all men You came,
Lashed and bound to set us free,
Crowned with thorn, arrayed in shame,
Kissed with whip, enthroned on tree,
Forced a bitter wine to drink:
When on humble tasks we think,
Call to mind Your lordly fame
Set aside on Calvary!

One Onésimus, a man
Useful more in name than deed,
Fled his master, ere God’s plan
Bade Paul plant the gospel seed.
Thus did Christ, their Lord and Slave,
Choose both slave and lord to save;
What in uselessness began
Was for useful service freed.

Well the one served Paul in chains;
Yet though slave and free are one,
Paul commended him with pains
To his lord, Paul’s other son:
Both begotten by one word,
Equal grace on each conferred,
Cleansed alike of vice’s stains,
Aught between them pardoned, done.

Lord, as with Onesimus,
Make us willing, patient, true,
Brave, devout, industrious,
Fruitful, useful unto You.
Like Philemon, let us live
Fellow sinners to forgive,
And to those be generous
Who the deeds of service do!

EDIT: David P. Werner contributed the original tune ONESIMUS for this hymn. I think it's breathtaking:

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