Sunday, January 22, 2017

God's Grace For Human Good

I think we all need to be singing (and seeking out, discovering, studying, and perhaps praying) more social justice hymns for the next few years. 

I am happy to note that this is a theme that inspires many contemporary hymnwriters, whose texts are being included in new hymnals every year.  While I will probably have more to say on these newer writers at a later date, their work is mostly outside the scope of this blog because I don't have permission to use copyrighted material here.

However, the theme is not a new one. There are probably some relevant hymn texts that I have not yet unearthed, but I have also used a number of them here over the last several years and these can be brought out again from time to time, perhaps to new readers. To start, here is another look at one of my personal favorites.

O holy city, seen of John,
Where Christ, the Lamb, doth reign,

Within whose foursquare walls shall come
No night, nor need, nor pain,
And where the tears are wiped from eyes
That shall not weep again.

Hark, how from men whose lives are held
More cheap than merchandise,
From women struggling sore for bread,
From little children’s cries,
There swells the sobbing human plaint
That bids thy walls arise.

O shame to us who rest content
While lust and greed for gain
In street and shop and tenement
Wring gold from human pain,
And bitter lips in deep despair
Cry “Christ hath died in vain!” 

Give us, O God, the strength to build
The city that hath stood
Too long a dream, whose laws are love,
Whose crown is servanthood,
And where the sun that shineth is
God’s grace for human good.

Already in the mind of God
That city riseth fair:
Lo! how its splendor challenges
The souls that greatly dare --
Yea, bids us seize the whole of life
And build its glory there.

Walter Russell Bowie, 1909; alt.
The Union Harmony, 1848

Originally presented here on June 8, 2008.

The image above is from a famous Tiffany window in the Third Presbyterian Church of Rochester, NY titled 'Holy City.'

More about Walter Russell Bowie (and another social justice text).

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