On July 8th we celebrated the publication of the new Wesley Hymns in a service where several people chose their favourite hymn and explained why. One of the hymns chosen was , Lord, my inward ear (Hymn 47 which was chosen by Glenn Kesby.
)In our Wesley Hymns project, we were aiming not only to protect, in print, a valuable part of our Wesleyan Methodist history, but also to offer a new resource for use in our private prayers, meditations and worship. It’s in thinking about the second purpose I selected Open, Lord, my inward ear (Hymn 47). Its emphasis is on quietness, stillness and contemplative reflection.
The first two verses quieten us down to be receptive to God’s quiet and comfortable voice that, when we’re ready, we will hear from within. We withdraw from the distractions of the noisy world. We wait silently and in stillness. There are allusions to Elijah’s experience, in 1 Kings 19, watching earthquake, wind and fire pass by - only to discover that God was not in these impressive, turbulent events, but that God’s still, small voice was in the silence that followed.
By the third verse we are ready to hear the secret of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and to begin our response to this sacrifice.
The remainder of the hymn asks for awareness of our sins to the extent that we are able to understand and bear them, and to humble us. Then we’re ready to put the rest of our earthly lives into God’s hands.
This Wesley hymn hadn’t really stood out to me until five years ago, when David Cruise asked me to sing it for a service about Charles Wesley - the man. I find the poetry both beautiful and surprisingly modern. The tune then was the one we’ve included in the hymn book, written in 2010 by Nicola Morrison
. Alison Gowman chose Hymn number 49 Where shall my wandering soul begin? She wrote ? Because it was written in May 1738 immediately following the conversion experience of Charles Wesley on 21st May.You may know that I am a trustee of the Aldersgate Flame the 15 foot bronze sculpture of a flame standing outside the entrance to the Museum of London in Aldersgate Street- marking the spot where John Wesley on 24th May had his own conversion in a Bible Study meeting near that spot. This second date is the one that Methodists commemorate as Wesley Day or Aldersgate Day and the Sunday nearest is also a time of reflection in many Methodist Churches. We share a service at the grave of Charles with St Marylebone Parish Church on this Sunday every year.
This hymn in a sense speaks to the experience of both brothers. Something I personally find quite difficult partly because I cannot point to a time or a day as to the start of my faith and secondly because of a reserve about speaking of such personal matters. The bronze Flame is actually one of three symbols of this very religious moment. There is one of the gates of Postman's Park next to the church St Botolph's Aldersgate and one more recent on the concrete wall of the Museum at the corner of Aldersgate Street. It was probably the older one that I recall was mentioned in a sermon by Rev Dr John Newton who was quoting a French diarist describing his visit to London and wrote that in Paris we put up statues to men of war and mark battles but here in London they mark a matter of the heart and soul.
This remark makes me proud to be a custodian of such a meaningful landmark.