“Poor Wayfaring Stranger”

This week we reflected on being strangers in this world.  Peter in his first letter called his readers who are spread over five Roman provinces, “exiles.”  He blesses them with “grace and peace in abundance.”  He then gives them advice for dealing with times of struggle, times of isolation, and times when life seems to be going on that slippery slide down.  It made me think of the song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” sung by Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and others.

         This American folk song was first known to be published in 1868 by an unknown writer.  Some think it was based on an 1816 German hymn.  The song was known during the Civil War and after as the Libby Prison Hymn named for a dying union soldier who scratched it on a Confederate prison wall in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.  The lyrics are the wail of a weary soul making his journey and focusing on the rewards of heaven.  It is linked with tough times and trials as were the lives of early Christians.  The version I found on YouTube is done by two Russians and gives a beautiful twist to this soul wrenching cry.  Peter would tells us to not forget we are not unseen but chosen, inheritors of a living hope, people with an eternal inheritance and knowing a God who is an impartial judge not playing politics to gain our approval.  God speaks the truth and he cares.  We can look forward to reunion with our “mama and papa.”

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