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1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:27

Hymn Story #17

What hymn was written by a Sunday School Teacher whose student enthusiastically responded to roll call? Let’s discuss that tonight in our Nightly Bible Devotion.

We can often find a spiritual insight in dealing with the circumstances of life if we look with open eyes. This simplest of things can often be an ah-ha moment for someone in the right place at the right time. James M. Black was about to be in just such a circumstance.

James M. Black was a Sunday School Teacher in a Methodist Church in Williamsport, PA. He was a talented song-leader, teacher, and church leader who had a strong love for Jesus and a desire to tell everyone the good news of Jesus Christ. It was that desire to share Christ that lead him to take the shortcut down the alleyway to the Post Office.

Passing by the rented house of a poor family with a drunkard for a father, Mr. Black spied a child in tattered clothes sitting on the porch. He took the time to stop and talk with her and invited her to Sunday School. The girls name was Bessie and she replied to the kind man by telling him she didn’t have clothes suitable to go into a church. Mr. Black and his wife and two of their friends furnished clothing for the little girl so that she could come to church. The girl was happy with her clothes and she started coming faithfully to Sunday School.

Mr. Black aways took a roll call before class. He would call out each name and the student would answer “present” or “here.” When Mr. Black would call the roll, Bessie would shout out proudly. Soon she had perfect attendance in Sunday School.

Mr. Black always paid attention to what was going on in the lives of his students. When one of them was facing a problem he would often find a hymn and a scripture that would minister to them. He loved to see how this would brighten their faces and give them a renewed outlook.

One morning when Mr. Black was calling roll the little girl did not answer. He called her name again but again it was met with silence. His eyes scoured the hall as he called her name a third time. Each time he called, “Bessie” his call was met with stony silence.

Mr. Black thought that he would find a hymn to sing that would help the children who where starting to feel rather anxious about where Bessie might be. As he scanned the Hymnal he was surprised that there was nothing to sing that addressed this situation. He felt like he missed and opportunity… a teachable moment. That moment would be gone forever.

Mr. Black would later recount this story saying, “This lack of a fitting song caused me both sorrow and disappointment. An inner voice seemed to say, ‘Why don’t you write one?’ I put away the thought. As I opened the gate on my way home, the same thought came again so strongly that tears filled my eyes. I entered the house and sat down at the piano. The words came to me effortlessly: ‘When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more: and the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair: When the saved on earth shall gather over on the other shore, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.’ The tune came the same way - I dare not change a note or word.”

The little girl, Bessie, had gotten pneumonia and passed away. Mr Black’s song, “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” is a poignant and dramatic finale to this roll call song. The way that Bessie responded to the Sunday School roll with enthusiasm was the same way all of us should respond when Jesus calls us home.

When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder is one of our favorite songs at BCCC where we sing it often. Our Song Leader, David Grubb, always encourages us to sing it “Loud and Proud” just like little Bessie in Mr. Black’s Sunday School Class.

There may not be a “roll call” in heaven but we do know that Jesus is coming back to get us and take us home to be with him. Those whose names are written in “The Lamb’s Book of Life” will be there. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 -For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Revelation 21:27 - Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

CCLI Song # 31315 James Milton Black © Public Domain CCLI License # 11195219

1 - When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound

And time shall be no more

And the morning breaks

eternal bright and fair

When the saved of earth

Shall gather over on the other shore

And the roll is called up yonder

I'll be there

Chorus - When the roll is called up yonder

When the roll is called up yonder

When the roll is called up yonder

When the roll is called up yonder

I'll be there

2 - On that bright and cloudless morning

When the dead in Christ shall rise

And the glory of His resurrection share

When His chosen ones shall gather

To their home beyond the skies

And the roll is called up yonder

I'll be there

3 - Let us labor for the Master

From the dawn till setting sun

Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care

Then when all of life is over

And our work on earth is done

And the roll is called up yonder

I'll be there

11/19/20/ Preacher/ Ministers Minute/
Ministers Minute