(photo of Dusty Owens)
“IN TRUE COMMUNION”
“The cup…is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread…the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16)
INTRO.: A hymn which emphasizes that the bread and cup are the communion of the body and blood of Christ is “In True Communion” (#173 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Dusty Owens. I do not know when or where Dusty was born and raised, but for many years he lived in the Tampa, FL, area. While making his living as a successful businessman, he also preached at different times for various smaller churches of Christ in and around Tampa. In addition, Dusty is a country music singer who began his professional career in Flint, MI, on radio station WWOK, at the age of sixteen, in 1946. In 1953, he began recording for the Columbia Record Co. and was signed to an exclusive writer’s contract by Fred Rose of the Acuff-Rose Publishing Co. in Nashville, TN. In 1954, on the strength of his hit song, “Hello Operator,” Dusty made a guest appearance on the “Ozark Jubilee” in Springfield, Missouri, a show that was aired weekly on national television. Red Foley and Porter Wagoner were stars of the show. Later, Dusty did package shows with Porter in various cities. In Wheeling, WV, as part of “The World’s Original Jamboree,” Dusty had a 30 minute segment that was aired weekly on the CBS radio network. He was a regular headliner along with Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Doc Williams, Hal Lone Pine, Betty Cody, The Osborne Brothers, and Crazy Elmer.
Several of Dusty’s hymns are found in Hymns for Worship. This one was copyrighted in 1984. The arrangement of the music was done by Margie Garrett, who also helped A. W. Dicus harmonize two of his songs, “Our God He Is Alive” and “Lord, I Believe.” Further arranging of both text and tune was done by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012). It was first published in 1986 in Hymns for Worship. Other hymns by Owens in the same book are “Set Your Mind” and “The Fruit of the Spirit,” both also arranged by Garrett and Stevens. Two additional hymns by Owens appeared in the original Hymns for Worship, both arranged by Dane K. Shepard. They were “Make Jesus Lord of Your Life”, which was replace in the Revised Edition by “His Sheep Am I,” and “When the Spirit Came Down,” which was replaced in the Revised Edition by “The Greater Light” and “Holy Is the Lord.” I first met Dusty in the early 1970s when he came to visit friends in my hometown who worshipped with the congregation where my family attended and he was asked to speak. When I was in school at Florida College (1972-1974) just outside of Tampa, I would see him occasionally. I think that at that time he was preaching with the Florence Villa Church of Christ. And I believe that I recall running across him a few times at the Florida College lectures when we attended in the early 1980s.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dusty became involved in a venture with Charles Holt to publish a very controversial paper called The Examiner which called into question the scripturalness of organized local congregations, maintaining a standing church treasury, and the appointment of elders as authoritative overseers, among other things. The paper eventually folded, and a few years later Holt passed away. Since then, I have not heard anything from or about Owens, except that he subsequently wrote an article entitled “Why I Left the Church of Christ” which appears on a number of “anti-Church-of-Christ” websites. Dusty is currently the Owner and CEO of TCM Radio, one of the first Internet Radio Stations, established January 25, 2003. Dusty has appeared in various places in Florida, including the Florida Opry in Plant City, FL, where he has been brought back several times by popular demand. In 2004, Dusty appeared at the Strawberry Festival where he headlined a show along with Tommy Cash. On September 1, 2006, Dusty was inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame and performed at the 31st National Old Time Country and Bluegrass Music Festival in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Several of his CDs are available. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “In True Communion” has appeared only in Hymns for Worship so far as I know.
The song is designed to help prepare the minds of worshippers for partaking of the Lord’s supper.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the day of the Lord’s supper
“We gather now on this Lord’s day,
To eat the bread and drink the cup;
Remembering the life He gave,
In true communion now we sup.
Thank you, Lord, You died for me;
Help me, Lord, to be like Thee.”
- In the first century, disciples gathered on the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s day: Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10
- In eating the Lord’s supper, we do it in remembrance of Him and the life He gave: Lk. 22:19-21
- In remembering His death, we also express the desire to be like Him in our lives: Phil. 2:5-9
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes what the Lord’s supper represents
“We hear by faith the pleading Son:
‘O Father, pass this cup from Me,
Though not My will but Thine be done,’
That night in Garden’s agony.
Bless us, Lord, as oft we show
Sincere faith from here below.”
- Since we did not personally experience the life and death of Christ, it is by faith, based upon inspired testimony, that we accept the truthfulness of what He did for us: Jn. 20:29-31
- The Lord’s supper reminds us of the suffering of Christ for us, about which He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane: Lk. 22:39-42
- In remembering by faith this suffering, we also express the desire to live by faith in everything that we do: 2 Cor. 5:7
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the purpose of the Lord’s supper
“We share His body and His blood:
With quiet hearts our mind discerns
The Christ whose side flowed crimson flood;
His death we show ‘til He returns.
Lord, be with us in this place;
Keep us safely in Thy grace.”
- The bread represents His body and the cup His blood: Matt. 26:26-29
- Our purpose in eating the bread and cup is to show the Lord’s death till He comes again: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
- In remembering His body and blood, we express the desire to be kept safely in His grace: 1 Pet. 5:12
CONCL.: The Scriptures are really quite clear as to the Lord’s supper. The bread represents Christ’s body and the cup represents His blood so that as we partake we remember and show the Lord’s death. God’s word doesn’t specifically command a hymn to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper. However, since we are told to teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, communion hymns certainly fall in the realm of that which is authorized. This one reminds us that we should strive to eat the Lord’s supper “In True Communion.”