We sang my favorite song in church last week—Hymn #377 in the Presbyterian Hymnal:
Lord you have come up to the lakeshore
Looking neither for wise or for wealthy
You only wanted that I should follow
Oh, Lord, with Your eyes You have searched me
And while smiling, have called out my name
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me
Now with you I will seek other seas.
You know that I own so little,
In my boat there’s no money nor weapons,
You’ll only find there my nets and labor.
You need the caring of my hands,
Through my tiredness, may others find resting
You need a love that just goes on loving
You, who have fished other oceans
Ever longed for by souls that are waiting
My dear and good friend, as thus You call me.
It has a griping and haunting melody and it’s the favorite for almost the whole congregation yet for about 3 different reasons:
The first time I ever heard the song was at the annual Womens Retreat , probably around 1995 or so. Margaret, our organist, not only loves the song but she loves to canoe. She had everybody she could muster out in the lake at Camp Gilmont to canoe that weekend. We had an inspiring speaker that year and the ladies adopted the Lakeshore song as a remembrance of the wonderful fellowship and spiritual depth they had experienced at the retreat. The song has become one of the best parts of the retreat ever since.
But the following fall, after discovering the song, I was in Guatemala for a spirituality/mission workshop. Rev. Robert Moore guided us through our week with daily devotionals, mostly centered around “crossings” and the fears we face anytime we follow Christ. One of our unintended crossings was a detour around a washed-out dam, somewhere between Rio Dulce and Tikal, I think. This crossing involved getting in a small boat by stepping over a vast chasm of air between land and boat. I will never forget the feeling I had getting into that boat. As I overcame my hesitation at the huge step required to go from dry land into the boat, I realized I was also trying to overcome my fears of what true mission requires of me. I think all the folks on that trip felt the same way. We discussed the Lakeshore Song and to this day we have a special relationship to the song. I have been involved in mission work in Guatemala ever since because my boat was left on the shoreline behind me that fall and I chose to follow Christ in exploring other seas.
There’s still another group of people for whom the song is special. My friend Sherry asked for the song to be sung at her husband’s funeral because Jim loved to fish and he loved the song. He was aware the cancer he had would end his life and I think they both heard in the song a message of leaving one life behind to begin another. Others have followed suit and we have women in our congregation now who are reminded of their husbands when they hear the song.
So, it’s just a really special song to a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons.
That’s why I thought it interesting to hear it in worship this particular Sunday--because the previous week there had been a flurry of controversy over a new version of the National Anthem sung in Spanish. I don’t know where you stand on this issue but here’s something you should know:
Hymn #377 was written by Cesáreo Gabaráin in 1979 and it was written in Spanish. In fact, the song’s name is actually “Tú Has Venido a la Orilla.” The English lyrics are listed in our hymnbook second, after the Spanish lyrics. It wasn’t translated into English until ten years after it was first published. Most of the congregation sing it in English because that’s the language they know best but there’s a group, including me, who always try it in Spanish.
Señor, me has mirado a los ojos
Y son riendo has dicho mi nombre
En la arena he deja do mi barca
Junto a ti buscaré otro mar.
I’m not sure where I stand on having people sing the Star Spangled Banner in other languages. But I know this: If they feel the way about that song that I do about the Lakeshore song, I say let them sing it in whatever language allows them to put their heart into words, whatever words they need-- It’s about the message, not how it is sent.