He Loves Me

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(photograph of L. O. Sanderson)

“HE LOVES ME”

“…Christ also hath loved us, and gave Himself for us…” (Eph. 5:2)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that Christ has loved us and given Himself for us is “He Loves Me” (#696 in Hymns for Worship Revised; cf. #136 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written, under the penname of Vana R. Raye, and the tune was arranged both by Lloyd Otis Sanderson, who was born the middle of five children to James P. and Lucy Ann Hunt Sanderson on May 18, 1901, in Craighead County near Jonesboro, AR, in an old log house on the home place that his father, who was a singing teacher, had inherited.  His father belonged to the Methodist church, but his mother was a member of the church of Christ. During his time at home, the family had a piano, an organ, a violin, a guitar, a mandolin, a harmonica, and a Jew’s harp. The children all learned to sing and play early in life.  At age four, Sanderson entered public schools and was taught to read notes at age five by his mother. This was his first exposure to the theory of music. His father soon began to teach him song leading.   Sanderson’s cousin, L.E. McElroy, came to Union Grove to teach and urged him to take high school work, so he finished two years of high school with good marks. He had been going to summer music normals, so when he received a diploma for teaching, he began his first singing school on the day he became 15. During the four years of this music normal work, he would pick cotton and work at a sawmill to gain the necessary cash. Finally, he had enough money to do more schooling, and for four years he studied more intensely, attaining a graduate status in music at age 18.  His father died soon after, and he elected to be with his mother and the two younger children. They moved to Bono, a small town on the Frisco Railroad, where he became the choir director for the First Methodist church and worked for the Bono Mercantile Co. part time.

When Sanderson came home in 1919, he decided to finish his high school work and did so at the Bono High School.  There was a congregation of Christians in Bono where his mother, older brother, and younger sister were members. Through a good friend, Robert Cherry, the main clerk at Bono Mercantile, Sanderson learned and accepted the truth of God concerning salvation, becoming a Christian in July 1922 when he was baptized by James E. Laird.  This meant the end of choir directing for the Methodist church and soon after the work at the Mercantile as he began to get calls to lead singing in gospel meetings, so he really did not miss any work at all. The local church immediately employed him to direct singing for a big tent meeting, and other calls came in plentifully. In the spring of 1923, J.N. Armstrong, president of Harper (Kansas) Christian College, offered Sanderson a job as music director and an opportunity to do college work. While at Harper, he took a year of voice with Inez Dodds Barber of Friends University. Also at Harper, he met Rena Raye Woodring, a sister of the Harper College librarian, and they began dating.  In 1924, Harper College merged with Arkansas Christian College of Morrilton, AR, to form Harding College. He held the same obligation with Harding from 1924 to 1928. During the four years at Harding in Morrilton, he completed two years of work at Little Rock Conservatory of Music. Rena also came to Harding.  He and Rena were married on Aug. 29, 1927, and they had two children, Leon and Lloydene. They stayed one more year at Harding for Rena to finish her bachelor’s work and then went to Springfield, MO, to serve the church there.

While in Springfield, Sanderson enrolled at Southwest Missouri State College (now a university) for two years and also did some music work (mainly history) by correspondence from the University of Arkansas. In 1935, the Sandersons moved to Nashville, TN, where he became business manager for the Gospel Advocate Co. For three years he also taught part time at David Lipscomb College. He had already been employed by the Gospel Advocate since 1933 as music editor.  For them he compiled Christian Hymns in 1935, Christian Hymns No. 2 in 1948, and Christian Hymns No. 3 in 1966.  For these books, Sanderson not only chose the best hymns and gospel songs by others, but provided many of his own.  For some he produced both words and music, such as “The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me” and “Where Livest Thou,” while for others he composed tunes for hymns by different authors, including “Be With Me, Lord” and “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” both with Thomas O. Chisholm, for a total of some 500 songs and hymns.  He resigned from the Gospel Advocate in August 1942, in order to do full time church work as the local minister and served churches in Springfield, MO; Columbia, TN; Little Rock, AR; Amarillo, TX, and Norman, OK, where he also attended the University of Oklahoma. “He Loves Me” is a text that he wrote for an old camp meeting tune and chorus that dates back to at least 1898 when it first appeared in Anthony J. Showalter’s Song-Land Messenger No. 2.  Sanderson’s version was first published in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2.  In his latter years, Sanderson worked with the Woodale church in Memphis, TN.  His wife, Rena Raye, died on Aug. 15. 1984, after being hit by a car while crossing the street. The same accident left L.O. crippled.  He married Vesta Stowe in 1988 and passed away on Jan. 17, 1992, at his home in Memphis, TN.

Besides Christian Hymns No. 2, among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Loves Me” has also appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of Praise and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns  and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for WorshipSacred Selections uses the same tune with Isaac Watts’s hymn, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed?”

The song identifies several things that Jesus did as a result of His love for us.

I. Stanza 1 mentions that He came to earth

Why did the Savior heaven leave,

And come to earth below,

Where men His grace would not receive?

Because He loves me so!

  1. To be our Savior, Christ Jesus left heaven: Phil. 2:5-7
  2. Thus, He came to earth as a flesh and blood man: Heb. 2:14-17
  3. And He did this knowing that men would not receive His grace: Jn. 1:1, 14—10-11

II. Stanza 2 mentions that He suffered temptation

Why did the Savior mark the way,

And why temptation know?

Why teach and toil and plead and pray?

Because He loves me so!

  1. The Savior marked the way and thus left us an example: 1 Pet. 2:21-23
  2. In doing this, He was tempted just as we are: Heb. 4:14-15
  3. Additionally, He taught mankind God’s will: Matt. 7:28-29

III. Stanza 3 mentions that He died on the cross

Why feel the garden’s dreadful dross?

Why through His trials go?

Why suffer death upon the cross?

Because He loves me so!

  1. Christ felt dross, literally waste material or refuse, here referring to great sorrow and anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane: Matt. 26:36-39
  2. Then He went through trials in which, though He was completely innocent, He was condemned to be crucified: Mk. 15:12-15
  3. Finally, He suffered death upon the cross: Phil. 2:8

IV. Stanza 4 (added) mentions that He gave us the hope of heaven

Why will the Savior come again,

And all His glory show,

To take me home to heaven then?

Because He loves me so!

  1. The Savior promised to come again: Jn. 14:1-3
  2. Then He will show all His glory: Matt. 25:31
  3. At that time, He will take His people home to heaven: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

CONCL.:  The chorus emphasizes the fact that Jesus did all these things because He loves us

He loves me!  He loves me!

He loves me, this I know!

He gave Himself to die for me,

Because He loves me so!

When I was growing up, the church where my family attended used Christian Hymns No. 2, and we frequently sang this song to help prepare our minds for partaking of the Lord’s supper.  A preacher friend of mine once said that he liked it better than the one which goes, “Why did my Savior come to earth, And to the humble go?  Why did He choose a lowly birth?   Because He LOVED me so,” since this one is in the present tense.  There’s a place for both songs, but it’s good to know that Jesus makes possible salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life because “He Loves Me.”

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