Softly and Tenderly

The hymn beautifully articulates a clear message that Jesus spent his life on earth spreading: come home! No matter who you are, what you have done, or what you have been. There is welcome. There is mercy. There is forgiveness. There is love. There is new life…

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me. “Come home, come home! You who are weary, come home.” Earnestly tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home!”

This classic hymn from the 19th-century is both well-known and well-loved. It is a simple tune and even simpler words, but they speak to something at the depths of our souls. It speaks words we all want to hear: Come home!

Whether we admit it or not, all of us have fallen into the trappings of our world at some point. We have wanted to be in control or in power or in vogue. The problem is, when we gain these opportunities, we lose sight of God’s merciful vision for us. We forget that in finding what we have sought after, we have usually left a trail of brokenness in our wake.

All of us have been the lost son from Jesus’ parable in Luke 15, on which this hymn is based. We have struck out on our own and found that not only have we caused harm, we ourselves need help, in some way or another. The wonder of the gospel is that Christ came to seek the lost and make them found.

The hymn beautifully articulates a clear message that Jesus spent his life on earth spreading: come home! No matter who you are, what you have done, or what you have been. There is welcome. There is mercy. There is forgiveness. There is love. There is new life.

As Saint Augustine once wrote, “The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners.”

This summer, we are using the final verse of this hymn as our “Call to Confession” in worship, because all of us need a reminder of how great our God’s love is for us from time to time.

So whoever you are, whoever God made you to be, whoever you may have become – there is always a home waiting for you: O for the wonderful love God has promised, promised  for you and for me! Though we have sinned, God has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me. “Come home, come home! You who are weary, come home.” Earnestly tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, “O sinner, come home!”

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