Just as I am; I come, I come.

Remember you are dust; I come, I come.

By Allan Roy Andrews

 

Lent began this week with one of those denominational surprises. 

Episcopalians don’t bask in their memories of walking the altar-call path to repentance and forgiveness to the strains of “Just as I am, without one plea,” the 19th-century evangelistic hymn that has become an unofficial anthem of the Billy Graham Crusades (Text by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871, and music by  William B. Bradbury, 1816-1868) . 

 

Nevertheless, we sang all six stanzas of the hymn as the hundred or so Ash Wednesday evening parishioners sauntered down the aisle to the altar rail and knelt to have a cross of burnt palm branch residue streaked across our foreheads and be reminded: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Back in the pew as the music and the imposition of ashes continued, I read carefully the words of the hymn.  “I come, I come.”  The credo of “I believe,” is overwhelmed by the venio of movement—“I come”–toward the altar.  The verb come is  repeated 13 times in the singing of the six stanzas in The Hymnalof the Episcopal Church; the 13th sneaks in describing the bidding of the savior.

But the gracious wonder resides in how I come:  Just as I am.  No garments of morality; no sacrifice of doves or chocolate denial; no sackcloth; no swollen or scarred knees; no promises or pleas on my tongue; no because clauses; no self-assertions. 

Just as I am:  unemployed, underemployed, bought out by bonuses, crushed by balloon payments; fighting off the creditors; avoiding the turn to Chapter Nine; rescuing the resume; remembering unreturned favors; thinking seriously about ebay; mining for a family nest-egg.

Just as I am:  Joining others who recognize their dust-ness.  I come.  I come.

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