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Monday, November 3, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Emmanuel’s Veins”

E-Vangel Newsletter
November 3, 2014

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

Pastorgraphs: “Emmanuel’s Veins”

My Daddy loved church music of all kinds, running the gamut from the ancient “shaped note” Sacred Harp to the “new work” of the Stamps-Baxter Music Company, who produced paperback hymnals each year for “singing conventions". We regularly attended singing conventions at the Yazoo Courthouse on Sunday afternoons, the old Jackson Auditorium (some lasting all night), to impromptu neighborhood get-togethers in the family living room. Then there was the quartet music of the Blackwood Brothers and Statesmen whose concerts were a major item on our calendar. And last, but not least, were the old standards in the church hymnal, especially “Amazing Grace”.

As a teenager out of school for the summer or on winter break, I rode with my father on his dry cleaning routes through the Delta. Those day-long trips with just Pop and me provided “quality time”. We talked about almost everything under the sun: politics, religion, values, and tales of him growing up in what seemed another century. We were also comfortable with silence.

Then suddenly, Pop would begin singing as he drove.
“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stain.”

The influence of my father’s faith expressed in the music he loved impacted my life in ways I am still discovering. As Garrison Keillor would say, his voice, like mine, was “good enough” but certainly not professional. Our cousin Harold Jenkins (better known as Conway Twitty) got the real vocal talent in our family, although everyone has some degree of musical aptitude. But Pop was not afraid nor ashamed to break into song to express the faith that obviously lived deep within him. While many teenagers would be embarrassed by such acts by their parents, I never was uncomfortable when my Daddy sang his faith. If anything, it made me want to find for myself this kind of “Faith of Our Fathers”.

A modern parable played out over the last couple weeks that brought Daddy’s singing back to me.

It happened when Dr. Kent Brantly (the first American doctor infected with Ebola) gave a blood transfusion to Nina Pham, the nurse who became infected treating Thomas Eric Duncan. In the words of another old hymn, “There is Wonder-working Power in the Blood”. If I had Ebola, or any deadly infectious disease, I would want a transfusion from someone who had survived the disease, because their blood would likely have antibodies that might help my immune system fight off the infection. Apparently it helped Ms. Pham.

That is exactly what the Bible teaches. My Judeo-Christian heritage teaches the power and importance of the blood. In the Old Testament Jewish tradition, the sacrificial blood of a lamb “atones” for a person’s sins. In the New Testament Christian tradition, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb of God whose blood was shed to atone for the sins of all who accept his sacrifice.

William Cowper (pronounced as Cooper, 1731-1800) suffered great bouts of depression for which he was institutionalized. In the depths of his despair, Cowper experienced a “transfusion” of Christ’s loving, life-giving blood that led him to pen his greatest poem/hymn, “There is a Fountain”. He wrote:

“E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.”

Rev. Robert Robinson penned the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in 1757, about the same time as Cowper’s “There is a Fountain”. Both hymns refer to the same Fount motif in the Bible. Our Fount of Blessings Project (MyFount.com) was named for the Robinson hymn and is a metaphor for the abundant streams of mercy flowing from the Fount.

Bringing the story full circle, Cowper and his friend John Newton, a former captain of slave ships who wrote “Amazing Grace”, compiled their songs into a hymnal at Olney, England. These “Olney Hymns” became the basis of the Sacred Harp Hymnal, from which my father learned and loved to sing as a lad in his backwoods Calhoun County, Mississippi church.

From Abraham to Jesus to William Cowper and William “Pop” Jenkins, to anyone whose “sin-sick soul” needs healing, “There is a Fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners (especially me) plunged beneath that flood (transfusion), lose all their guilty stain (impurity).” 
 
Thank you O Lamb of God,

In Christ’s Service,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.”
~ William Cowper (1772)

Photo: My father, W. L. “Pop” Jenkins, holding me in front of his Snow White Cleaners van in Yazoo City, Mississippi (1948).

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