“Spirit of God” (Church Hymnary 4, no. 722)

“Leaving Lismore” is a traditional Scottish folk song that I was introduced to about a year ago. These words were set to it by Helen Kennedy and seem appropriate at the Easter season and the coming of Pentecost:

  • Spirit of God, come dwell within me.
  • Open my heart, O come set me free.
  • Fill me with love for Jesus, my Lord.
  • O fill me with living water.
  • Jesus is living, Jesus is here.
  • Jesus, my Lord, come closer to me.
  • Jesus, our Saviour, dying for me,
  • and rising to save his people
  • Lord, how I thirst, O Lord, I am weak.
  • Lord, come to me, you alone do I seek.
  • Lord, you are life, and love and hope,
  • O fill me with living water. 
  • Jesus is living …
  • Lord, I am blind.  O Lord, I can’t see!
  • Stretch our your hand, O Lord, comfort me.
  • Lead me your way in truth and in light,
  • O fill me with living water.
  • Jesus is living …

It is a simple, unpretentious plea from the heart to Jesus for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at a well, recorded in John’s gospel, 4:4-26.   Jesus, alone at the well, asks the woman for a drink. He had been travelling a considerable distance (on foot) all day, it was hot and he was tired. She was taken aback at first. It simply wasn’t done for a man to speak to an unaccompanied woman that wasn’t a relation, and Jews had as little as possible to do with Samaritans. Furthermore, she had a bit of a reputation, which of course Jesus knew about: having got through five ‘husbands’ she was currently living with a sixth. She flirted with him a little. Eventually, Jesus offered her “living water”. This surprised her, after all, she was the one with the wherewithal (she thought) to draw water from the well. ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?’ Jesus replied, ‘those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The Samaritan woman understood. She wanted that water, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty’. She also wanted to tell others, so that they might have this living water too.

The Living Water is of course the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit – Living Water – returns us to Handel’s “Wash Me Throughly“, often sung at the beginning of Lent, and referring to a complete purging of sin – which I wrote about in February this year. I like the neatness of this symmetry, beginning and ending the extended Lent and Easter seasons with a watery analogy for the Holy Spirit. Let us all drink deeply and savour the “gushing up to eternal life” as often as we can.

There is a lovely unaccompanied version of this hymn here.


Carol P

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