Bible Text: Romans 8:31-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp | Series: Faith Throughout the Ages Well, we have come to the end of our journey exploring the origin and messages behind some of the hymns found in our Book of Praise. Along the way we have sung some really old traditional hymns and some newer ones that have become standards in our time. Today we finish with selections that combine hymns from the 19th century with those in the 20th century. We begin with a hymn that has been used at tent meetings and revivals – Shall we gather at the river. Robert Lowry, the author of this hymn, was born in Philadelphia in 1826. From an early age he loved music and learned to play a number of instruments. He entered pastoral ministry with the Baptist church and was ordained at the age of 28. A reporter once asked him what his method of composition was to which he replied, “I have no method. Sometimes the music comes and the words follow… I watch my moods, and when anything good strikes me, whether words or music, and no matter where I am, at home or on the street, I jot it down. My brain is a sort of spinning machine, I think, for there is music running through it all the time. The tunes of nearly all the hymns I have written have been completed on paper before I tried them on the organ. Frequently they have been written at the same time. Shall we gather at the river reflects on the river of life as envisioned by St. John the Divine in Revelation. There are also echoes of the Jordan River here as well. For the Hebrew people the Jordan River symbolized their coming into the Promised Land. The Jordan River was the place where John the Baptist led people to prepare for the coming of God in Jesus and the crossing of the Jordan has ever come to symbolize our crossing from the old life of separation from God to the new life lived in the Spirit of God now and the eternal life we are to receive after this time. But ultimately the river in this hymn is the river of life that flows by the throne of God. In John’s vision, the river of life feeds the trees that line the river and the leaves are for the healing of the nations and the people. Lowry sees that vision as a sign to us that there will come a time when we shall find perfect peace and release from all the sorrows and trials of this life. We shall be able to lay down all our burdens for the grace of God will deliver us and we will receive the robe and crown promised by God to all those who put their faith and trust in God. We often refer to this life as a journey or a pilgrimage. We recognize that this is a moment in time and that as time passes we age and move on in life to the moment when we pass from this world to the next. Reaching the shining river will be the end of this pilgrimage for at that moment we will have arrived at the place where we can dwell for eternity – a place where our happy hearts will quiver with the melody of peace. So yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river, gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God. Our next hymn is a beloved one from the time of childhood for those of us who have been part of a church community from an early age. I remember singing All Things Bright and Beautiful in Sunday school and that is probably why I often choose it as a Family Hymn around the time of the Children’s Story. Penned by Cecil Frances Alexander, it is one of nearly 400 hymns that she wrote – and yes, Cecil Frances is a woman. How she came to get the first name of Cecil I don’t know but Frances also wrote other hymns we love at various seasons of the year including: Once in Royal David’s city, There is a green hill far away and Jesus calls us o’er the tumult. Primarily a writer of hymns for children, it is no wonder that All things bright and beautiful has been most often thought of as a children’s hymn; but we must never forget the words of Jesus who said that unless we receive the kingdom of God like a child, we shall never enter it. To be able to see the world in all its beauty without the cynicism that life can bring and without the prejudice and distrust that often seeps in is a redeeming thing. It is that childlike joy and wonder that we ever need to hold onto that this hymn celebrates and encourages in all of us. The positive message of this hymn lifts our spirits every time we sing it. There is not one negative image or thought in it. Perhaps it seems a little unrealistic but it is that positive uplifting nature of the hymn that can inspire us to see the beauty of the world and know that the love of God is in the making of everything around us. From the greatest to the smallest, everything wise and wonderful, all things bright and beautiful come from the love of God who made them all. No matter where we may live, no matter what the view that greets us, we can marvel at the creation around us as we witness the opening of a flower, the singing of a bird, their colours, their wings. We can celebrate the cold of winter knowing that it prepares us for the summer sun that will bring the fruit of the trees to grow and ripen. We can see the wonders of nature in the mountains that stand so high, the lakes that are so clear and the prairie grasses that seem to go on forever. Finally we can celebrate that we have eyes to see, lips to be able to express our thoughts and feelings and know that everything and everyone has been made that the God we know and love. Our third hymn today is in the discipleship section of our book of praise. It has been a favourite to sing for at least 2 generations. I remember singing this one in Sunday school and then it first appeared in a publication called Praiseways. That was the Presbyterian Church’s way of experimenting with modern music. Nothing is known, though, about the author of this piece or where it originated. The tune is traditional and there is really no information about it. But it is a fun song to sing and reminds us to keep our focus on God as we live our lives both in the day and especially at night. For a lot of people daytime can be filled with many activities that help the day go by but night-time can be hard as activities come to a close and we can be left with nothing more than our thoughts, hopes and/or fears. To ask God to give us oil in our lamps may be outdated today but the idea is to be able to be ever ready for the coming of the Lord. The author then encourages God to give us joy to keep praising, peace to keep loving and love to keep serving. Back in university we added 2 verses. The first was give me batteries in my flashlight, keep me shining for the Lord. The chorus was changed to ever ready, ever ready, ever ready for the King of Kings. The other one was give me gas in my ford, keep me trucking for the Lord. It is certainly a song that is uplifting and encouraging. There isn’t much to say about our closing hymn today. It is very simple and very short. We’ll sing it 3 times. English the first time, then the Hebrew and then the English again. It is a traditional Hebrew blessing set to a traditional melody and celebrates the fond wish for safety of friends or family until the time when they gather together again. I chose it because this is our last service before our break and wherever life may take you in August, whatever you may do, I say to you farewell, dear friends, stay safe, dear friends, peace, peace. We’ll see each other again, so have peace, have peace. AMEN
Bible Text: Romans 8 18-30 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp | Series: Faith Throughout the Ages Faith throughout the Ages – Part 4 “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine”, penned Fanny Crosby in one of her more famous and beloved hymns. While these words have given comfort and hope to so many throughout the years, the life of Fanny herself is also one of great hope. At the age of 6 weeks Fanny lost her eyesight during a spell of sickness. But this never seemed to hold her back. At the age of 15 she entered the New York Institution for the Blind where she received her education. She became a teacher in the institution in 1847 in the subjects of English grammar, rhetoric and American history. She continued her work until March of 1858 when she married Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician, who was also blind. Crosby was visiting her friend Phoebe Knapp when Phoebe was having a large pipe organ installed. The organ was incomplete, so Mrs. Knapp, using the piano, played a new melody she had just composed. When Knapp asked Crosby, "What do you think the tune says?" Crosby replied, "Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine,” and so this famous hymn was born and received its equally well-known tune. This song reflects Crosby’s walk of faith, as expressed by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21: For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Fanny loved her work. The secret of her contentment dates from her first composition at the age of 8 years. “O what a happy soul am I. Although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.” This remained her philosophy throughout life. Fanny combines so many wonderful affirmations of our faith into this hymn. For Fanny the very fact that Jesus had been with humanity on this earth was a sign of the divine glory that one day we would see perfectly. She knew that she had been granted salvation because of Jesus because God had bought her life back from sin and separation and she knew that she had not only been born in the flesh but more importantly she had been in the Spirit and that all her sins had been washed away by the blood of Jesus. These affirmations led Fanny to know that she could give herself fully to God in Jesus. Her delight in life was now perfect as visions of rapture burst on her sight. In spite of her blindness she could imagine angels descending to the earth and bringing with them the mercy and love of God. And for Fanny, no matter what might happen in this life, she was happy and felt blest. She could watch and wait, looking above for the return of her Lord because she knew his goodness and was filled with his love. Indeed this is her story and her song, praising her Saviour all the day long. I am sure Fanny would want everyone who ever sings this hymn to believe that this is their story and their song as well as she would encourage everyone to praise the Saviour all the day long. Our second hymn today was written by Maltie Babcock and set to a traditional English melody. Babcock was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry and was pastor of churches in Lockport, NY, Baltimore, Maryland and New York City. While the words we sing today are different than the ones first penned by Babcock, their meaning remains strong. This hymn celebrates the nurturing and sustaining nature of God as the Father oversees the creation and we can reflect on the hand of God present in the shaping of the whole creation around us. Babcock encourages us to take time to see the world that we live in not just as an inanimate presence but for all its beauty. For him everything in creation has a music and a song. Having morning coffee sitting on the deck I can hear the music of the world in the many birds and the movement of the leaves on the trees. The world is alive and there is always something celebrating being alive. The second verse celebrates the specific task of creation as we are reminded that we – like all creation - need to give thanks for the world in which we live. For Babcock, God speaks to him through everything that he sees. In the last verse, he reminds us that we are destined not just to live within this world but to live in it as the people of God. For those who have accepted the call of God in Jesus Christ, this is the Saviour’s world and we who are God’s people are to live as those who recognize that God is the ultimate ruler of the world. And even though we are tempted, we are to remember that the end of our lives and all creation lies with God in Christ. So we are to order our lives according to the will and example of the One who is our Saviour. Our third hymn today was composed by Timothy Dudley-Smith who is an English hymnwriter and a retired bishop of the Church of England. As water to the thirsty fits well with the theme of our second hymn and is a wonderful fit to our closing hymn. The hymn gives us a great vision of what Christ means to the author. Think of how precious water is when we are thirsty, how feeling strong is such a relief when we are feeling weak, as relieving it is to hear the truth instead of lies; to know calm in place of strife, peace after pain, meeting a good friend again after a time of being apart. Every image that Timothy gives us helps us to envision what his relationship to Jesus means to him. As we sing this hymn, may we reflect on the images he paints and imagine if we will how our living Lord is present in our lives. Our final hymn today really cannot be effectively sung to any other tune than Endless Song. It is the only hymn with this tune and while it may be challenging to sing, the words are also challenging. Written by another one of our modern hymn writers, We cannot own the sunlit sky reminds us that we cannot lay exclusive claim to any part of this earth. Ruth Duck has spent most of her life as a Professor of Worship at a theological seminary in Evanston, Illinois. She is most interested in subjects such as baptism, liturgical healing, liturgy and culture, and feminist study of liturgy. These interests have led her to think beyond the bounds of denomination and see the church of God in Jesus Christ in broader terms. It has also caused her to reflect on the purpose and meaning of Christian community and Christian faith. We who have been so blessed in our lives need to remember that the world in which we live is not our possession but that it is God’s. The issues of justice and fair distribution of resources is a theme of this hymn as we are encouraged to recognize that the vision of God is not just abundant life for some but for all. The challenge for all faith communities as we move into the future is to realize that we no longer can live isolated in our communities but that we will need to embrace others enduring peace is ever to come to this world. Today our hymns have taken us from a focus on our lives individually with Jesus to a celebration of the created order in which we live and finally to a vision of the future where our Christian faith and life will lead us to realizing an abundant life for all. As we go forth to love and serve the Lord, may we be mindful of the assurance we have from the presence of God in our lives, the blessing of the creation that has given us life and the call to be a people who see beyond the confines of our community to a vision of a world that can truly embrace peace as abundant life comes to all. AMEN
Bible Text: Isaiah 55:10-13 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp | Series: Faith Throughout the Ages Our opening hymn today only gives us information on the translator and the author of the tune, but it is believed that the words of this hymn were composed by none other than Bernard of Clairvaux who was born of well-to-do parents in central France -- in what we now know as burgundy wine country -- near Dijon. But he didn't grow up as a spoiled rich kid. His parents, especially his mother, Aleth, taught him the virtues of justice, mercy, and affection for others. His mother's death, when he was seventeen, affected Bernard profoundly. He began to experience a more profound conversion and a call to study theology. He entered a Benedictine monastery in 1112 A.D. His talent was soon recognized, and three years later he was asked to establish a monastery at Clairvaux. That was a successful venture, and a number of monasteries were established throughout France under his leadership. He became a confidant of Popes and a preacher to the King of France. In spite of these remarkable achievements, the focus of his life remained twofold: Knowing God and serving the needy. Edward Caswell, the translator of this hymn, was the son of an Anglican priest and entered the Anglican Church as a priest but chose to enter the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church after the death of his wife. He devoted the rest of his life to serving the poor, the sick and little children. In his spare moments, he busied himself with translating the old hymns from Latin to English. Of the many hymns that reflect on the person of Jesus this is one that celebrates not only the joy of being conscious of Jesus in this life but also the joy of knowing that a time will come when our spiritual relationship with Jesus will be realized in a face to face encounter and the opportunity for the believer to find rest and peace in the presence of Jesus. Bernard reflects on the fact that nothing in this world no matter how wonderful the voice or how precious a memory may be, nothing can be sweeter that to hear the name of Jesus. For Bernard, Jesus is the one who brings hope to every heart that feels the pain of sin and separation; he is the one who encourages the meek and who is ever kind to any who have fallen – be it a physical or spiritual fall. Jesus is good to all who seek him and what is it that those who seek will find with Jesus? For Bernard the end of our seeking is the love of Jesus. But for him that love is beyond any description that we might express by speech or in writing. It is a love that only can be truly known by those who know they are loved by Jesus. To know we are loved by Jesus is the ultimate truth for Bernard and it is that love of Jesus that allows us to live our lives in relationship with Jesus as Jesus becomes for us our greatest joy in life knowing that the love of Jesus will ever be ours both now and even in eternity. Our second hymn was composed by Catherine Cameron and set to an old tune by William Moore called Holy Manna. Catherine Arnott Cameron was born in 1927 in St. John, New Brunswick, the daughter of a New York minister, Dr. John Sutherland Bonnell. In an interview with hymnologist Harry Eskew, Catherine reflected on her interest in poetry and music: “As a child and teenager with a gift for writing poetry, I was troubled by the mismatch between words and music in some of the hymns sung in our church,” she said. “I thought that one day I might write a hymn that was a harmony of poetry and music.” The author notes “the hymn was written over a period of several months at a time when I was experiencing a new sense of direction, growth and creativity in my life.” It appeared first in Contemporary Worship 1 (1969) and has been a staple of hymnals ever since. The hymn certainly is a reflection of our modern society and its struggles to balance the advances of science with the need to be aware of how our choices impact the world and its people. While recognizing that we have great powers of inventiveness that we share with God who created us in his likeness, we can struggle with how to use those powers in ways that will enhance the lives of people and not leave them devoid of hope or purpose. The goal for us as Christians is to be part of the advancement of science and technology while at the same time not losing sight of the effects and changes science and technology can have on the quality of life of people. In the last verse, the author sees the great challenge that lies before us but reminds us that our goal is ever to be in service to others while not failing to honour God. Whatever we say and whatever we do, may we be guided by the wisdom of God so that the goals we seek may ever be in line with the vision of God. John Lamberton Bell (born 1949, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire) is a great hymn-writer but also a Church of Scotland minister, a member of the Iona Community, a broadcaster, and former student activist. John works throughout the world, lecturing in theological colleges in the UK, Canada and the United States, but is primarily concerned with the renewal of congregational worship at the grass roots level. As with so many of his hymns, John strongly sees the call of God as one to all believers. Clergy may have a part to play in the community life but the call to follow is not exclusive to them. Will you come and follow me has grown in popularity over the last number of years. What may surprise many of you to know is that the hymn is now 30 years old. The challenge is to answer the call of God to follow and to trust that God will be there as we answer that call. What seems on the surface to be a simple hymn with a lyrical tune, John touches to the depths of our being with the probing questions: will you leave yourself behind; will you love the “you” you hide inside; will you quell the fear; will you let me answer prayer; and will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around - easy to sing but not so easy to answer. But John’s hope is that Jesus’ summons to us will be answered by us as we turn and follow knowing that our lives will never be the same. We are encouraged to let the love and footsteps of Jesus show us where we are to go and then we will be able to move and live and grow in Jesus and Jesus in us. Our closing hymn was composed by Omer Westendorf, one of the earliest Roman Catholic composers of music in English. Omer got his start in music publishing after World War II, when he brought home for his parish choir in Cincinnati some of the Mass settings he had discovered in Holland. Interest in the new music being published in Europe led to his creation of the World Library of Sacred Music, initially a music-importing firm that brought much of this new European repertoire to U.S. parishes. While more properly to be used as a hymn after communion, sent forth by your blessing focuses us as Christians on the life that we are to live as we leave the time of worship and resume our everyday lives. It is the prayer of the hymn that the seed of God’s teaching and the grace of God will inspire us to work for the coming of the kingdom of God and that we will find purpose in our lives. In the final verse the author encourages us to share our faith, to reveal our care for others through the love we come to know from God and to embrace as neighbours all those in the world no matter what their race. In this way we may give honour to Christ and be seen as his people. While the first hymn today celebrated the great joy that a believer has from knowing the love of Jesus and being in relationship with Jesus, the other hymns have focused on how we, as Christians, can make our faith in God real in the world. May we not forget that what we learn of God is not just for this time and this space; may we not forget that we are being sent into the world as God’s people and so may we ever seek to honour God with our living and ever remain conscious that we are to bear the name of God and so follow the example of Jesus wherever we may go. AMEN
Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp | Series: Faith Throughout the Ages Our first hymn today is one which is often requested for funerals. It is no surprise to learn that this hymn was composed to provide comfort to someone in a time of special sorrow. What might be more surprising is that it was intended only to be read as a poem by one person, the author’s mother. Little is known of the life of Joseph Scriven. It is believed that he was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1820, graduated from Trinity College in Dublin and emigrated to Canada at the age of 25. He died at Port Hope, Ontario in 1886. It is believed that the hymn was written around 1855. The hymn only came to light as the result of a neighbour who tended to Joseph during his final illness. The neighbour happened upon a manuscript of What a Friend we have in Jesus. After reading it, he questioned Joseph about it. Joseph then recounted how the poem was intended to comfort his mother in a time of special sorrow in her life. What exactly that sorrow was we will never know but Joseph said that it was a personal thing and he did not intend for anyone else to ever read it. We can be thankful that Joseph’s neighbour decided not to keep the poem a secret but let it be published. It first appeared in Hasting’s Song of Pilgrimage in 1886 and was attributed to Joseph Scriven. It was set to music by Charles Converse who wrote the tune What a Friend just for this hymn. The kind of friendship Joseph Scriven imagined with Jesus is the kind that so many people seek for but seldom if ever find. In fact, we probably could never hope to find anyone outside of Jesus who would be prepared to bear all our sins and griefs. Joseph then reminds his mother - and all of us who have heard these words through the ages – that it is a privilege to carry everything in our lives in prayer to God. Our hesitancy to do so only leads to a lack of peace and the continuing presence of pain that we needlessly carry when we choose not to include God in our lives. When it comes to the second verse, we have no doubt reflected on the fact that there is no one of us who has not experienced trials and temptations. We all know that there is trouble somewhere in the life of someone we know but Joseph reminds us to never be discouraged and take it all to the Lord in prayer. And is there anyone else we know who will be faithful enough to listen to and let us share all our sorrows? Probably not; but Jesus knows our every weakness and is still willing to share our sorrows and help us in our trials and temptations. The final verse is almost like a recap of what he has already told us. If you find yourself weak and heavy-laden; if you find you are cumbered with a load of care, do not hesitate to take it to God for he is for us a refuge in the midst of any trouble or trial of life. And if you find your friends have grown tired of your struggles and have stopped listening or caring, do not despair for God will take you in his arms and shield your spirit and you will find a solace there. No wonder the neighbour felt compelled to share this wonderful poem with the world. Our second hymn today is an African-American spiritual. Like so many of the spirituals that came from the 1800’s, it was born from the life of slavery. In the midst of great sorrow and hardship and oppression, there rose a spirit among the slaves that transcended their physical existence. Imagine in the midst of that oppression to be able to declare that you were going to live, work, pray and sing in such a way that God could use you anywhere, any time. It is a testament to the hope that they held so deep in their hearts that nothing in all creation could separate them from the love that God had for them and their firm belief that it was for them to live so that God could work through them. They met adversity with courage and conviction. Our third hymn was written by Jane Leeson who lived in the 19th century. She was a prolific writer of poems and books for children. She also translated a number of hymns from Latin to English. Often used as a children’s hymn, the author chooses to focus on one key lesson that, when learned, is the lesson from which all of life will flow: loving God who first loved me. It is a lesson that Jane knew she needed to learn every day and even though she had grown into an adult, she knew that it was only with the heart of a child that she could respond to the love of God for her and so follow God wherever he led her. She wanted to be taught how to trace the steps of God, how to be strong in her resolve and how to love by observing the way Jesus loved. In the final verse, love in loving finds employ are words which sound a little strange but really is intended for us to discover how learning to love as Jesus loved can help us to be followers of God. In the end we are never to forget the phrase that ends each verse: Loving God who first loved me. Our final hymn today was written by Joseph Gilmore. Joseph was born in Boston in 1834 and was educated at Brown University and Newton Theological Institution. He served as Professor of Hebrew for 2 years and then was a Baptist pastor in Fisherville, New Hampshire and Rochester, New York before being appointed Professor of Logic in 1868. Little else is known of him. Apparently, the hymn was written after a lecture he gave at First Baptist Church in Philadelphia in 1859. The Scripture that did inspire him is from the 23rd Psalm. Echoes of that Scripture can be found in the repetition of the phrase “He Leadeth Me”. He leadeth me is one of my personal favourites and is one that I have loved from a young age. The hymn traces the journey of a faithful follower of God throughout life and ends with the affirmation that even in the face of death, the faithful follower has nothing to fear for God will lead us even then through that final crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land – heaven. In the first verse, Joseph celebrates that wonderful assuring thought that God leads him no matter what he does or no matter where he goes. In the second verse he reflects on the fact that be it sorrow or joy, be his life calm or troubled, God’s hand is still there to lead. Knowing this, he is willing to put his hand in the hand of the man from Galilee – to coin a more modern sentiment – and never complain or regret his choice. Whatever lot comes to him, whatever life may bring he will be content for he knows that it is God who leads him. And so at the end of all his days, when his task on earth is done, he knows that nothing will ever stop God from leading him from this world to the next. He is assured that God will never let him journey alone or will he ever abandon him. In every moment, in life, in death, God will be there to lead him and so a faithful follower he will be for ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth him. All of our hymns today have some element of overcoming adversity and seeking for the presence and strength of God throughout even the most trying circumstances that we face. May we find strength and hope through the words of these hymns and know that the struggles we face in our time are not unlike the struggles of those who came before us and that we too can know the peace and hope that coming to God in prayer can bring and the love that can shape each our living each day. AMEN.
Bible Text: Romans 6:15-23 and Matthew 10:40-42 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp | Series: Faith Throughout the Ages Our opening hymn this morning came about at the insistence of Caleb Winchester, who was the editor of the 1905 Methodist Hymnal. He challenged Frank North, an ordained Methodist minister, to write a hymn text on city missions. Life for many in the cities in the late 1800’s was far from easy. Frank, himself, had served pastorates in the inner city of New York and later took on the role of Correspondence Secretary of the New York City Church Extension and Missionary Society. First published in 1905, it is recognized as one of the earliest and finest modern “city hymns.” The text focuses on the ills of our great urban centres with the insight and compassion of a Christian worker in the city slums. North’s descriptive phrases were no doubt startling at the turn of the century, but they continue to be accurate descriptions of the conditions so many people face in the inner parts of our many of our cities to this day. While describing the situation of so many so graphically, he also encourages those of us who are followers of Christ to step into the shoes of the Master and bring the good news of the gospel in word and deed. The message remains relevant even in our time and will no doubt remain so until the return of our Lord. Even in our day and age, we hear so many stories of how difficult life is in the inner city areas of our world. We find people separated by language, culture, race and religion. We find people coming into contact with people from varied backgrounds and often struggling to figure out how to live in harmony. Add to that the struggle to find employment and to provide for their families as well as finding a safe place to raise their families, we can certainly identify with the thoughts being expressed in this hymn. In the midst of human suffering, the author says, we will catch the vision of the tears of God. Too often it is believed by people that God cannot exist because of the suffering in the world or that God is present but unmoved by the suffering. But if we examine the record of God as passed to us by those who came before us, we will note that God ever is pained by the suffering of humanity and ever seeks to relieve it but chooses to do so not in an autocratic way but in partnership with those who by their own free will have accepted his will and commandments as the pattern for their lives and have committed themselves to being part of the mission of bringing peace and reconciliation to the world and its people. Wherever there is a helpless child, wherever a woman expresses grief, wherever a man feels the burden of life, where souls are hungry, where sorrow brings stress, the heart of God has never drawn back. In the midst of the angst of humanity, God’s grace is ever fresh and ready. The world still longs to see the sweet compassion of God’s face; but the author knows that the face they will see before God’s is ours and so while he urges God to make haste to heal these hearts of pain, he is seeking for us to learn what the love of God truly is and so follow where God’s feet have trod; and to continue to do so until the time shall come when the city of God shall be established once and for all. Our Family Hymn today was written by Sarah Rhodes, the wife of a merchant in Sheffield, England for a Sunday School Union Whitsuntide Festival in 1870. She also composed the tune. Unfortunately no more is known of her or anything else she may have penned. The challenge to respond to the plight of humanity in general, and of those whom we encounter in our daily lives can be somewhat overwhelming. In the midst of this, we need to never lose sight of the fact that God cares for each of us. This lovely hymn by Sarah reflects on all the things that God has taken the time to create – the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, the grass, the flower, the fruit, the tree, the sun, the moon, and the stars we see. God gave light its birth, made day and night to pass, sees life’s clouds and changes the seasons. Yet in spite of all this, God still cares for you and me. In the great scheme of things, we are of little consequence to the world but in the eyes of God, each of us matters. To God who notes the fall of every sparrow whom most of us could never tell the difference between one or the other, God cares for each one of us - a wonderful message to bring us peace and hope. And that brings us to our closing hymn that was written by Robert Walmsley. Robert was a Congregationalist. For 28 years he was connected with the work of the Manchester Sunday School Union as a layperson. A jeweller by trade, he published 44 of his hymns in a collection entitled “Sacred Songs for Children of all Ages.” His hymns are simple, musical, a celebration of the works of God in nature and of a deep desire to communicate a love of God to all children. Come let us sing of a wonderful love is an invitation for each of us to not only know the love of God but to celebrate it. He begins by reminding us that the love of God streams from the Father in heaven to each and every one and that as much as that love streams to us, it never runs out but is ever renewed in the heart of God. In the person of Jesus, God made that love as real as he could possibly make it. Robert reminds us that the Gospel, the good news, was brought to all people but especially to those who felt helpless and hopeless. Jesus shared their sorrow and shame. He sought for everyone who felt lost and alone to save and redeem their life and restore to them the joy of life itself. And Jesus continues to seek for those who are wandering. Robert wonders why people still roam searching for peace, for forgiveness, for hope. Love only waits to forgive and forget so home, weary wanderers home. Perhaps our desire to be perfect in the eyes of God has blinded us to the real purpose for our communities. We are to be a place in this world where people can come for hope, for healing, for peace, for forgiveness. Paul’s injunction to make peace with each other before taking communion was not meant to say we needed to be perfect but rather that we were willing to acknowledge our imperfection and seek to be reconciled with one another and so be able to accept the grace offered by God through Jesus Christ. In the final stanza, Robert prays for that love of God to come and abide with him. And that is what he hopes each of us will pray for so that our lives can be lifted above envy and falsehood and pride. So may we ever seek to be, lowly and humble, a learner of God. AMEN