Hymns for a Gracious Family

This Sunday’s lesson from Ephesians (chapter 6, verses 1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…Fathers, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord…”) coincides very nicely with Rally Day and the opening of Sunday School.  We will also celebrate a Baptism at the 11:00 service.  All three of these occurrences point a strong focus on family relationships, with particular emphasis on the care and Godly nurture of children.  This Sunday we will sing a few hymns that speak directly to those themes.

Hymn 412: Earth and all stars! (Earth and All Stars)

This hymn was written for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf College in 1964.  The author, Herbert Brokering, comments, “I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which merge in the life of the community.  So there are references to building, nature, learning, family, war, festivity.”  Pastor Brokering is the author of over thirty of books as well as a number of hymns, many of which (like ‘Earth and all stars’) contain imaginative and evocative imagery that attempts to juxtapose the mysteries of salvation with the experiences of the world in which we live.

This hymn was chosen to begin our worship on Rally Day precisely because it encompasses such a wide variety of images.  This reflects not only the diversity of experiences that we bring as individuals, but it hopefully reflects the great and ever-growing scope of ministries in our parish.  The text of the refrain, “He has done marvelous things, I too will praise him with a new song” also reminds us that we make a new song to God with our lives as we celebrate and re-commit ourselves to another year of ministry and mission.

587: Our Father, by whose Name (Rhosymedre)

This text was written in 1939 by the Rev. F. Bland Tucker, who had a hand in editing both the 1940 and 1982 Episcopal hymnals.  In an article written long afterward, he recalled that the members of the committee to edit The Hymnal 1940 we asked to

make a topical index of all the hymns chosen.  I wrote down among other topics, “Home and Family,” but then discovered that there was no hymn on that topic among those chosen.  I looked in other hymnals but could find none (this was 40 years ago), so I tried to write one.  I started from Ephesians 3:14-15 and then the Trinity suggested the home, parents, children, and spirit of the family.

416: For the Beauty of the Earth (Dix)

This familiar text (first published in 1864) did not immediately spring to mind as a “family” hymn.  I think of it as a more general hymn of praise, cast in the mold of Psalm 96 or 98, giving thanks for the wonders of God’s creation and then listing them comprehensively, if not tediously.  But lo, there in stanza 4, was the relevant phrase: “For the joy of human love, / brother, sister, parent, child…”  And so we include it this Sunday.


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