“O LORD, HELP US REMEMBER”
Wayne S. Walker
“This do in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:39)
INTRO.: A hymn which asks the Lord to assist us in partaking of the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Christ is “O Lord, Help Us Remember” (#575 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Tommy L. McClure, who was born on Sept. 10, 1925, at Cave Springs in a rural part of Arkansas, the son and only child of Sanford Ervin and Allie Jane Crank McClure. Reared on a farm during the great depression, he entered the first grade at Cave Springs, AR, where he remained through high school. From there, he went to Freed-Hardeman College (now University) at Henderson, TN, where he sat at the feet of N. B. Hardeman, James R. Cope, and W. Claude Hall among others. While a student there, from 1945 to 1947, he preached every weekend at Poplar Bluff, MO, and worked the summer with the McLemore church of Christ at Memphis, TN, in between his two years at college.
Also while at Freed-Hardeman, McClure met Janette Lumpkin from Marvell, AR. They were married on Mar. 17, 1947, and had three sons, Tommy G., Curtis Lynn, and Richard Dale. His full-time preaching work began in 1947 at the South Parkway church in Memphis, TN. After that he did local work in Mobile, Alabama; Blytheville and Paragould, Arkansas; Franklin, Tennessee; El Dorado, Arkansas; and El Cajon and Antioch, California, which included daily radio programs, and holding meetings in several different states. Following his return to Arkansas, he and Jeanette lived near Marvell, and he preached for churches in Marvell, West Helena, and Pine Bluff. Over the years he had attended singing schools conducted by several men, such as Frank Grammar, Thomas J. Farris, James L. Neal, Tommy Nicks, and R. J. Stevens. but the thought of writing songs did not occur to him until later in life.
The tune for “O Lord, Help Us Remember” was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012). The song was first published in 1994 in Hymns for Worship Revised edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard. Tommy also wrote a couple of other hymns which to my knowledge have not been published, “The Death of Christ” and “Praise God and Fight for the Right,” the latter with tune by Vicki Mullins Stevens and arrangement by R. J. Stevens, copyright in 1998. After a short period of declining health, McClure died at Little Rock, AR, on Sept. 20, 2001. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only one in which I am aware “O Lord, Help Us Remember” has appeared is Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).
The song refers to several concepts that we need to remember about Christ when we eat the Lord’s supper.
I. Stanza 1 talks about remembering Christ’s death
O Lord, help us remember,
As we these emblems take,
Your suffering death on Calvary,
For our unworthy sakes.
A. The emblems are the bread and cup, or fruit of the vine: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
B. They remind us of Christ’s death on Calvary: Rom. 5:8
C. His death was for our sake in that it was “for our sins”: 1 Cor. 15:3
II. Stanza 2 talks about remembering Christ’s blood
O Lord, help us remember
The crown of thorns You wore;
Although You’re vision blood-stained,
Your love divine outpoured.
A. One of the things which we remember about the death of Christ is the crown of thorns: Matt. 27:29
B. The fact that His vision was thus blood-stained symbolizes the fact that He shed His blood for our redemption: Eph. 1:7
C. And He did all of this because of His love for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
III. Stanza 3 talks about remembering Christ’s resurrection
O Lord, help us remember
That from death You arose;
The power of God did raise You
Triumphant o’er Your foes.
A. Not only must we remember the death of Christ, but we must also remember His resurrection: 2 Tim. 2:8
B. It was the power of God that raised Christ from the dead: Acts 2:22-24
C. In His resurrection, He triumphed over all His foes: 1 Cor. 15:20
IV. Stanza 4 talks about remembering Christ’s return
O Lord, help us remember
You are at God’s right hand;
This feast reveals Your suffering
Until You come again.
A. After Jesus arose, He ascended into heaven where He sits at God’s right hand: Acts 2:32-33
B. The Lord’s supper reveals His suffering in that it is the communion with His body and blood: 1 Cor. 10:16
C. And it points forward to the fact that He will come again: Acts 1:11
CONCL.: I noted in a previous hymn study that “There is nothing inherently unscriptural in using minor tunes,” but also pointed out that “My experience tells me that many congregations, especially smaller ones, unless they have trained musicians among them, tend to have a great deal of difficulty in trying to render songs in minor keys.” First, there is always the question of whether it is a natural minor, melodic minor, or harmonic minor scale, and if melodic is it ascending or descending. And I’ve noticed that even though the key for this song is “E minor,” in which E should be do, the shaped notes show E as la and G as do, probably because the related major key is G Major. I don’t know whether this is just an anomaly of the music printing program or what, but it is rather strange. Why can’t do be do? Before he died, Tommy indicated to me that he was not too happy that this hymn had been set to a minor melody because he was afraid that it would severely limit its usefulness among brethren. In any event, we should certainly ask God, when we partake of the Lord’s supper, “O Lord, Help Us Remember.”
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