INVOCATION and PSALM
O Lord of redeeming grace, we come to you seeking harmony in all you have created.
Let our reflection find new ways of reaching out to others as we work to share your love in all we say and do. Amen.
1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Praise and glory to You, O God of love and unity!
As I think about Pastor Steve’s sermon series concerning the ways we are all linked to one another, one of the hymns that comes to mind is “Jesus, United by Thy Grace” (UMH #561). The first line alone reminds us that it is God’s grace that unites us. Thus, we are already tied to one another, whatever connection is or is not shared. Our covenant with God calls us to seek caring relationships with all of His children, and that’s what this hymn expresses so beautifully – that because the “lodestone” of God’s love affects us so deeply, we are moved to find unity, compassion, and common cause with one another. And in so doing we learn that by caring for others, our hearts are softened. In feeding others, we are fed. And by lifting others up, we are so lifted – bringing us ever closer to the perfect love of Christ.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) composed this hymn. It was first published in 1742 as a longer work in four sections that consisted of 29 stanzas. Wesley is especially known for the mastery and beauty of his poetry as a means of expressing sound theology, and this hymn is no exception. The six stanzas found in our hymnal represent the idea that nurturing unity was an important part of seeking Christian perfection. A disagreement over the doctrine of Christian perfection at the time was causing disunity within the Methodist fellowship, and this hymn was a means of stating the Wesleys’ theological views while, at the same time, making clear that unity in Christ was the way forward.
Several tunes are associated with this hymn. Our hymnal uses the tune ST. AGNES, composed in 1866 by John B. Dykes (1823-1876). Of course, we Methodists know this tune well as it was originally written for another text, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” (UMH #175).
Here is a different setting of the first four stanzas of “Jesus, United by Thy Grace” from a cantata arranged by Mary K. Jackson:
Touched by the lodestone of thy love,
let all our hearts agree,
and ever toward each other move,
and ever move toward thee.
To thee, inseparably joined,
let all our spirits cleave;
O may we all the loving mind
that was in thee receive.
This is the bond of perfectness,
thy spotless charity;
O let us, still we pray, possess
the mind that was in thee. (UMH #561, st. 4,5,6)
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries