Summoned by Your call

*** This very accessible hymn outlines the story told in Acts 2: ‘When the day of Pentecost had fully come… ‘ It was written while my wife was visiting her parents in PENARTH.



The first half of this hymn explores Acts 2.1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Most of the second half is concerned with the next twenty verses in Acts 2, beginning with And suddenly from heaven there came …The final stanza declares that the first Christian Pentecost belongs in the present as much as in the past, and suggests that ‘today’s apostles’ are colleagues of the first apostles.

The first part is constructed with the rhetorical device of ‘anadiplosis’: the repetition, usually of the last word of one line or clause at the beginning of the next one; in this case, the clause to be repeated is the second line of the first three stanzas, that appears as the first line of the next stanza. The intention of this device is to evoke for contemporary worshippers a sense of time passing; these first four stanzas are very repetitious, verging on the tedious. In the same way as a line from the previous stanza begins each new stanza, so the church fellowship faithfully gathers at each appointed time to do what it has done always before. Outsiders may find this baffling, but the fellowship is not chiefly concerned with how they feel about their gatherings. Focused elsewhere, they pray instead, openly or implicitly, “Spirit of Jesus, come”. For they believe themselves ‘Summoned by (Jesus’) call, and gathered in (his) name’, and they are committed to stay here in the city (or wherever they are gathered) until (they) have been clothed with power from on high[1].

 This portmanteau picture of the church in these opening stanzas draws in allusions to the descriptions in Acts 2.44-47 and 4.32: All who believed were together and had all things in common …Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts[2]… Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common[3].

 Since these are pictures of the church after Pentecost, the hymn may thus appear to distort the story told in Acts. But the picture in the hymn draws also on the experience of much of the Church in subsequent centuries: of people who go on patiently from day to day, year to year, decade to decade, in glad Christian fellowship, but who see no signs of the promised power from on high. Yet they still pray, ‘Spirit of Jesus, come’. It is, perhaps, to these especially that this hymn is dedicated.

After four verses that are set un-inspiringly low in the vocal register, at verse five the music modulates up a perfect fourth, offering an image of the Spirit descending as warm and bright harmony. The Holy Spirit is completely unaccountable, and, just as in Luke-Acts, so here: the hymn does not speculate about how or why. The incredible story is recounted without comment or demur. In any case, the awe-inspired apostles pray ‘Spirit of Christ, well come!’ For the coming of the Spirit is not an event ‘out there’: the disciples are profoundly affected, not just emotionally, but in their personalities. Having been followers of and learners from Jesus, they become ambassadors sent by the Messiah (Christ) into all the world, enthusiastically (filled with God) and effectively communicating God’s deeds of power to people of every language and culture. ‘Saving grace (is) to young and old proclaimed’, and ‘tirelessly God’s people say: Spirit of Christ is come!’

This is a hymn of deep feeling, but it is not about feeling. It recognizes a range of experience, from elation to boredom to elation again. What is central, though, is the constancy of the Church’s witness to Christ, as worked out in lives of apostolic fellowship.

The Welsh word ‘hwyl’ (hooil) is ‘uplift’, ‘cheer’, ‘joy’. It’s what may happen when the singing or the preaching ‘takes off’.

[1] Luke 24.49b

[2] Acts 2.44, 46

[3] Acts 4.32