Come down, O Love Divine; seek out this soul of mine, and visit it with your own ardor glowing. . .
For none can guess God’s grace, till Love creates a place wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
These are the first and last words of one of my favorite hymns – a hymn about the Holy Spirit that we will be singing this coming Sunday for Pentecost. The lyrics to the hymn were written in Italian in the 1300s, but the music comes from Ralph Vaughan Williams, a famous English composer. According to our own hymnal, the tune, DOWN AMPNEY, is the name of the place where Vaughan Williams was born.
In 1893, somewhere in the vicinity of Bedford, a baby named John H. Stevens, Jr. was born. On October 8, 1918, in the final month of World War I, John H. Stevens, Jr. died aboard a ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean or in the vicinity of France. From what little I can find, John H. Stevens, Jr. was a Manchester firefighter before he joined the Navy – one of two firefighters from Manchester who died in World War I.
You hear of people who go off to war, who are killed in action, but as I read through the list of names of people from this area whose lives were lost in World War I, I am struck by how many of them also died of disease. According to a website dedicated to people from the Manchester, New Hampshire area who served in World War I, young John died at age 25 of pneumonia.
Several times a week – a little winded from the uphill climb – I walk past John Steven’s grave in the Bedford Center Cemetery. His simple gravestone first caught my eye because I have the same initials that he does – J.H.S. But from the first time I noticed his simple grave, I was mindful that there is no one who is now alive who would remember John. There might be some people descended from the Stevens family of Bedford, New Hampshire, who are still in the area, but I am not sure if any of them even know much about John.
I imagine that the Stevens family – like so many other families throughout the centuries – were not strangers to sadness. In looking at the family gravestone, it would appear that John’s mother, Nellie Green Stevens, died the year John was born. It would also appear that John’s father (John H. Stevens, Sr.) lived until 1936 – outliving his own son by nearly 20 years.
I’m not sure what to do with the weight of all of this except to share it with you and trust that the Holy Spirit is at work – helping us remember and turning our hearts to Holy things and all of the great mystery that is beyond our knowing. Even if we never come to know what it all means, the Holy Spirit gives things meaning, even if that meaning is hard to put into words.
So, this Memorial Day – as we remember those who gave their lives in service to something beyond themselves – I am remembering John H. Stevens, Jr. And on Sunday, I know that I will be singing a hymn of praise to the One who seeks out our souls and makes a dwelling within us. It is the Spirit who aids us in facing the weight of this life and, in the end, grants us a new life – filled with grace. John H. Stevens, Jr., his father and mother, all whom we remember (and do not remember anymore), and all of the illuminated souls who make up the communion of the saints now live a new life in and with God.
May the blessing and gift of the Holy Spirit make a place within our souls this day and always. . .
See you in church!
Grace and Peace,
Prepare for Worship
This Week: “Being it’s You and Being it’s Today (The Gift of the Holy Spirit)”
- Read Acts 2:1-21
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:3-13
- Read or sing Hymn # 282 – “Come Down, O Love Divine”