Sunday, November 7, 2010

And All Its Flocks Unite

The theme of unity can be an awkward one to discuss among Christians. given our multiplicity of denominations and doctrinal differences. The number of things we all agree on seems to grow smaller all the time when compared to the number of things we don't.

This text by Presbyterian minister Henry Van Dyke seems to me to come out of the early twentieth century's conception of the social gospel, from which we have received several of the great hymns of the church. That concept is under attack today by churches who believe that concern for others is far less important than the purity of their own beliefs. Van Dyke says that while our churches may never attain unity here on earth, our actions may at least come to some accord.

No form of human framing,
No bond of outward might,
Can bind thy church together, Lord,
And all its flocks unite;
But, Jesus, thou hast told us
How unity must be:
Thou art with God and Spirit one,
And we are one in thee.

The mind that is in Jesus
Will guide us into truth,
The humble, open, joyful mind
Of ever-learning youth;
The heart that is in Jesus
Will lead us out of strife,
The giving and forgiving heart
That follows love in life.

Where people do thy service,
Though knowing not thy sign,
Our hand is with them in good work,
For they are also thine.
Forgive us, Christ, the folly
That quarrels with thy friends,
And draw us nearer to thy heart,
Where every discord ends.

Henry J. Van Dyke, 1922; alt.
Henry J. Storer, 1891

This text first appeared in a short collection by Van Dyke, Thy Sea is Great, Our Boats are Small, and Other Hymns of Today (1922), prefacing the text with a verse from John 10:16: Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. Van Dyke's most familiar hymn came several years earlier, Joyful, joyful we adore thee.

One Year Ago: Will L. Thompson

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