Take, oh, take me as I am;
summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.
That’s all, folks! I know, we’re used to hymns being just a little bit longer. This hymn was written by John Bell in the late 1990s. Bell is a Scottish Presbyterian pastor who has been influential in both youth work and liturgy and a member of the Iona Community.
Iona is an association of men and women who keep to a rule of life and faith, while continuing their secular jobs and vocations—a monastery in the world. This hymn was written for a weekly service of commitment in the Iona Abbey, “which involved people being offered the opportunity in some symbolic way to affirm their commitment to Christ or to a specific aspect of discipleship” (From the Hymnal Companion to the ELW).
It is meant to be sung repetitively and contemplatively. I first experienced this hymn at a summer program called Theological Education with Youth. It was a two-week camp, focused on creating an intentional Christian community for that time. Going into my senior year of high school, it was at this camp that I first began to seriously consider a call to ministry.
We sang this hymn at our closing worship, again and again, as each of us was anointed by our leaders and prayed for individually. With easy, repetitive hymns like this, you don’t need the words or music after the second or third time through. I closed my eyes and let the song wash over me. This song is a prayer, beautiful in its simplicity. To borrow from another tradition, it becomes almost like a mantra, something that you breathe in and out.
To this day, hearing or singing this song will transport me back to that chapel at Susquehanna University, to those gathered teenagers, to being prayed for and anointed. Do you have a hymn like that? That takes you back to another place—where you first learned it, or a special occasion when you sang it? Please feel free to share in the comments. Next week will I will be writing about some of these suggested hymns (and the ones that have already been mentioned on previous posts.)
God of all, you know us: our thoughts and prayers, our hopes and dreams, our doubts and desperation. We thank you for your love, which accepts us as who we are, despite our shortcomings. Let your love live in our hearts, and call us forth to lives led for you. Amen.