The first time I heard the haunting tune was in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary over 30 years ago. Barry Davies, the chapel organist, had a way with fingers and feet that helped that organ ring with divine sounds. The irregular, compelling march known as “God Is Working His Purpose Out” made you want to join the parade of those who were living their lives according to God’s purpose, as that the hymn’s words were your calling: (If you can’t recall this song, go to Youtube, “God is working his purpose out” @ St. John’s Detroit” is incredible)
God is working His purpose out, As year succeeds to year;
God is working his purpose out, And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time, The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
March we forth in the strength of God, With the banner of Christ unfurled,
That the light of the glorious Gospel of truth, May shine throughout the world;
Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin, To set their captives free,
That the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
The tune is infectious, and the words draw me back to that wonderful description that the prophet Isaiah gives us of the kingdom that we are seeking and working alongside God to bring into our midst.
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Sadly for me, this favorite song of mine did not make it into the newest Presbyterian hymnal. But I can still request it in our church on our wonderful organ, and it lives in my soul, and in different versions on Youtube. In fact, you may hear an acoustic guitar version some day soon at our Gathering service. (I’m looking for someone here to follow the lead of “God Is Working His Purpose Out” as recorded by JG on Youtube, check it out!)
Until then, I hope to be a co-worker with my God and Creator in making sure that the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Wonderful God, use me as you choose to spread your word and peace in the world, today and each day, in Jesus name. Amen.