A Tale of Two Crosbys–Mark 1:7-8

And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” –Mark 1:7-8

Fanny Crosby wrote some 8,000 hymns during her ninety-five years. Probably none is better known than “Blessed Assurance.” In fact, my guess is that by simply putting the title and author of that hymn–actually, it should be termed a gospel song according to one common definition–I have you humming the refrain already: “This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.”

If you read up on Crosby, you’ll discover that praise of her Savior truly did seem to be her story and her song. This woman, blind from infancy, recognized God not only as the being on whom she depended for her life but as the source of her poetic talents. She could see no better use of that talent than to proclaim the message of Christ as the one more powerful than her–and of you.

Bing Crosby–no relation to Fanny–lived for seventy-four years and, during the decades before and after World War Two, dominated movies, radio, and recorded music like nobody else. If nothing else, you might remember Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Other big hits included “Swinging on a Star” and “Don’t Fence Me In.” The message–the story and song, if you will–of Bing Crosby was decidedly individualistic. All you have to do is look at the photos of the man with his pipe jauntily sticking from his mouth to get the sense that it’s all about him.

Although at his peak, Bing Crosby certainly carried more fame than did Fanny Crosby, neither of the two is quite a household name today. I shouldn’t wonder, however, if more young people today couldn’t identify Fanny than Bing. In another thirty years, my guess is that few under forty will know who traveled the  “Road to Morocco” with Bob Hope.

I don’t want to be unfair to Bing Crosby, whose spiritual life and condition I really cannot guess. However, I can see the message that the two Crosby’s put forward. Like John the Baptist, Fanny promoted the idea that somebody greater should receive the lion’s share of the attention.

Which Crosby do you and I resemble more? Is your story and song clearly pointing to Jesus, like Fanny and John the Baptist, or are you more of a self-promoting Bing? I must confess to spending time in both camps. May our message always be clear: There’s one more powerful than me. His name is Jesus.

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