The Methodist Hymnal of 1905 included a new hymn. It was first published as a poem by a Methodist clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Frank Mason North. North lived in New York City for many years and knew the struggles of city life. Reading the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew’s Gospel, he came upon “Go ye therefore into the highways and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” In his mind’s eye he saw the crowds traveling the crossroads of urban life and wondered if they were aware of Another walking by their side. Or, he wondered, were they like Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus totally unaware of that other presence traveling with them?
I often use a hymn for my morning prayer and this morning I chose North’s “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life.” It has always been one of my favorite hymns, but this morning it seemed more significant and meaningful than ever before as a prayer. In the midst of our confused and bewildered world there is Another, a Voice, a Love, that walks with us (Emmanuel=God with us) who calls us to be and to do “what man and woman are called to do and meant to be.”
Where cross the crowded ways of life,
where sound the cries of race and clan,
above the noise of selfish strife,
we hear your voice, O Son of man.
In haunts of wretchedness and need,
on shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed,
we catch the vision of your tears.
From tender childhood’s helplessness,
from woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
from famished souls, form sorrow’s stress,
your heart has never known recoil.
The cup of water given for you,
still holds the freshness of your grace;
yet long these multitudes to view
the sweet compassion of your face.
O Master, from the mountainside
make hast to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide;
O tread the city’s streets again.
Till all the world shall learn your love
and follow where your feet have trod,
till, glorious from your heaven above,
shall come the city of our God!