« 213R We Who Would Valiant Be | Main | 215R Not Always on the Mount May We »

December 13, 2005

214R Rabbi and Worker of Years Past

Original Title: "O Master Workman of the Race," Jay Thomas Stocking (1912), OLD 137TH, C.M.D., One and Fiftie Psalms of David (1556); New Title: "Rabbi and Worker of Years Past," alt. REH (2005), same hymn tune. The hymn does not appear in Singing the Living Tradition. Stocking was an American Congregationalist. The source of OLD 137TH is also thought to be John Day's Psalter (1553), although this is not what Hymns of the Spirit Two has to say on the matter. The disciples of Jesus called him "rabbi," translated as "magister" in Latin; this appears variously as master, teacher and rabbi in English versions of the Bible; all speak to Jesus' teaching ministry, but only the final designation in English makes clear his identity as a Jewish teacher. The lyrics seem to echo Luke 2:24b (NKJV): "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" "For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you," Isaiah 62:5.

OLD 137TH (C.M.D.)

1. Rab-bi and Work-er of years past, the one from Gal-i-lee,
who with the mind of ear-ly youth sub-lime things did per-ceive,
we give thanks for a child-hood faith that shone a whole life through;
"Did you not know it is my work, and our God's work to do?"

2. O Car-pen-ter of Na-za-reth, Buil-der of life di-vine,
who shapes our lives to God’s own law, your own, the true de-sign,
build us a tower of Christ-like height, that we the land may view,
and, lo, like you, our nob-lest work, the Sove-reign's work to do.

3. O one who does the vi-sion send and ere gives each a task,
and with the task suf-fic-ient strength, show us your will, we ask;
Give us a cons-cience bold and good, give us a pur-pose true,
that it may be our high-est joy, our Sove-reign's work to do.

Word Score
PDF Score
Noteworthy Composer File

All materials may be reproduced for non-profit local and congregational use. We request notification of use, in addition to notification of any changes made when materials are used so we might benefit from the insight of others. Any materials used or reproduced in any way must bear the notation "(c) 2005 Richard E. Hurst, for non-profit local and congregational use only, all other rights reserved."

Posted by rehurst at December 13, 2005 02:27 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


My compliments on some the lovely & worthy hymn craftsmanship on this site, but just one quibble...

Why can't Jesus be the "master workman" ?
He WAS a man.
He WAS a workman and a master workman -- literally and spiritually.

And unless I'm mistaken, being a man is not officially a spiritual deficiency or criminal state of being -- well, even within the boldly "inclusive" confines of liberal Protestantism. Again, correct me if I err.

Although, perhaps this is why one finds fewer and fewer men (conservative or liberal) in the Protestant churches. You don't believe me? Look around those pews this coming Sunday. Many of us note that anything perceived or imagined to be masculine is diminished and/or devalued within these sacred halls -- unless, of course, one's services are needed to change light bulbs, fix the plumbing, etc. etc. Many of us have walked away. I doubt if the church is a healthier place.

Anyway, back to the revisions: "Rabbi" adds nothing to this hymn & is, in fact, incongruent with the author's theme and intent. Why not allow Jesus to stand in the midst of his "blue collar" brothers and sisters as a Master Workman, whether they be of the 1st century or the 21st century, and without that unconsciously elitist (?) rabbinical stole, so to speak.

The unjustifiable bludgeoning of "our Father's work" into "our Sovereign's work" is an apparent contagion from the pompous pages of the New Century Hymnal, the musical standard in liberal Protestant self-parody.

Some feminists may not like this, but it's an historical fact: the gospels depict Jesus as having an earthly father and a heavenly Father.
The original hymn recognizes and plays upon these meatphors.

Joseph's inculcated his spiritual wisdom into Jesus. He mentored and trained him as craftsman to carry on the family tradition. These are positive examples of the patriarchal culture in which these men were raised. So, how about a little more cultural sensitivity in these areas?

Why can't we occaionally see Jesus as male? After all, he endured circumcision to prove it... In fact, it was his maleness, that made his message to women and the outcast the scandal that it was.

Just this once, my feminist friends, learn to celebrate Jesus as a person embodies in the male gender. It won't hurt anyone!

Posted by: Todd VanLaningham, MDiv at May 5, 2006 04:12 AM

I would prefer something other than "Holy One of Light" in the first line of the fourth stanza of "Immortal, Invisible". St. Denio gives a strong beat to the syllable "ly" here, which results in a specimen of a tongue neither of men nor of angels, nor of women nor of demons. ;-)


Posted by: Haruo at January 8, 2007 07:21 PM

How does "O Light of all light" grab you? It fits the meter and stress pattern, though it leaves us with a lot of light.

Posted by: Richard Hurst at January 9, 2007 06:48 PM

Okay, I hear what you're saying Todd, but Worker, Carpenter and even Rabbi, historically, don't fail to celebrate "maleness" (or at least Jesus' maleness, more to the point). Does that make it sound like Jesus isn't male? I'm just not hammering away at it; I'm just letting it speak for itself, anymore than if I were to call a fireman a firefighter, or a policeman a police officer, which I think is pretty standard this ... millenium. I'm not sure that those terms take away from the ... maleness of folks in those occupations. I dispute the idea that "Rabbi" doesn't add anything-- it reminds folks that Jesus was Jewish!!

Posted by: Richard Hurst at January 11, 2007 02:31 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)