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Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Friday, March 11 2016

Alicia Taylor

This Lonesome Valley
Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by himself.
Oh, nobody else could walk it for him.
He had to walk it by himself.
We must walk this lonesome valley ...
You must go and stand your trial ...
Our Chancel Choir will sing this text as part of the anthem on Sunday.  The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song debated a long time over whether to include in Glory to God this hymn.  It does appear in the Lent section of the 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal.
Opponents of inclusion argue that the text makes statements that are theologically questionable.  How can Christians sing that "nobody else" can walk the lonesome valley with us or that we have to stand our trial "by ourselves," when the very heart of the crucifixion narrative holds that Jesus walked-and continues to walk-alongside those who suffer and that he went on trial for our sakes?
Proponents of inclusion argue that the text is making an experiential rather than a theological claim: there are times when we feel as if we are starkly alone and to voice such a lament resonates with cries of forsakenness going back at least as far as the Psalms.
Although there is lack of agreement on the origins of this hymn, often sung on the first Sunday of Lent, it seems clear that "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley" does exist as an African American Spiritual, although in a slightly different version than the one printed in most hymnals. 
I must walk my lonesome valley.
I got to walk it for myself.
Nobody else can walk it for me.
I got to walk it for myself.
I must go and stand my trial ...
Jesus walked this lonesome valley ...
Aside from the reordering of the verses, two differences are immediately apparent:  first, the use of "I" (as opposed to "we" and "you" in the first two verses); second, the use of "for" instead of "by" in the second and fourth lines ("for myself" instead of "by myself"). 
One could argue that using "for" can overcome some potential theological objections to the idea of walking "by ourselves."  As aptly put by American theologian James Cone, "the journey of salvation is like a lonesome valley of hard trials, and the believer has to travel the valley for himself."

Prayer for Today

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand; I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light; take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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