Hymn of the day

by Richard on September 20, 2009

If death my friend and me divide,
Thou dost not, Lord, my sorrow chide,
Or frown my tears to see;
Restrained from passionate excess,
Thou bidst me mourn in calm distress
For them that rest in Thee.

I feel a strong immortal hope,
Which bears my mournful spirit up
Beneath its mountain load;
Redeemed from death, and grief, and pain,
I soon shall find my friend again
Within the arms of God.

Pass a few fleeting moments more
And death the blessing shall restore
Which death has snatched away;
For me Thou wilt the summons send,
And give me back my parted friend
In that eternal day.

Charles Wesley

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 09.20.09 at 3:36 pm

That’s really lovely. Thanks.

2

tortoise 09.20.09 at 7:13 pm

Hmm.

I can see how this hymn could be really helpful to those facing bereavement: hope of heaven, assurance of redemption, affirmation of penultimacy.

But I confess that I am always left uncomfortable by words which, in speaking of death, look forward more keenly to the reuniting of those whom death has separated than to the overwhelming joy of “seeing face to face, … knowing fully, even as I am fully known.

3

Kim 09.20.09 at 9:14 pm

I know what you mean, tortoise, but when you remember that this hymn is by the man who wrote “Love divine” …

4

Rachel 09.20.09 at 9:21 pm

Tortoise - I agree. I have always felt uncomfortable about colluding with the idea that the joy of heaven will primarily be that of one big happy family reunion. It seems to represent the “best hope” of many people outside and within the church community - perhaps understandably so in the context of bereavement. Strange to find an apparent precedent in a Wesley hymn!

5

Richard 09.21.09 at 12:59 pm

I understand the reservations, but I have to say that of all the unsung Wesley hymns that I’ve found it is this one that I’d be most likely to campaign to get into the new hymn book. Of course, if one’s only hope of heaven is to be reunited with loved ones that is thin indeed. But this is CW we’re talking about, and the Christian hope he sets out in his hymnody is surely broader and deeper than that.

What I particularly appreciated about this hymn was the way it acknowledges and takes seriously the sorrow of bereavement, urging us to “grieve, but not as those without hope”, to quote a funeral service prayer.

6

Rachel 09.21.09 at 2:33 pm

Richard - I take your point that CW’s hope of heaven is much broader than is set out here (and I wouldn’t like my own hope of heaven to be judged by any one funeral address!).

7

Tony Buglass 09.21.09 at 3:47 pm

I don’t have a problem with heaven as a ‘family reunion’ - in most of my funeral addresses I use words to that effect, because that’s where the family are. Context shapes content. However, that is a long way from all of my hope of heaven, and there are other bits of the service which I hope give a taste of that.

8

Kim 09.21.09 at 3:57 pm

Am I allowed to look forward to cuddling my risen cats in heaven, or is that excluded by the beatific vision?

9

Rachel 09.22.09 at 7:27 am

That reminds me of a joint visit of Methodist and Anglican clergy to a pet and race horse crematorium. If your staff meeting / chapter meeting (….insert name of other gathering of clergy) want a trip out, I’d recommend it as a conversation starter.

10

Tony Buglass 09.22.09 at 8:17 am

There is the story of the missionary priest working among the Inuit, and translating the NT into the local language. He was working through Lk.15, but having great difficulty in finding the right word for “joy” - happiness, yes, but joy, not quite. So he went for a walk to do some visiting, and found himself strolling down the main street with one of his congregation. Outside the store a dog sled was parked, and the dogs were being fed - they dived on the food with unrestrained delight and devoured it. The priest had a brainwave, and asked “What’s the word for that?” So his task was completed. The result is that anyone translating his text back into English will learn that there is much tailwagging among the angels in heaven over one sinner who repents.

That being the case, I know of one little angel who will be waiting for me when I get there - Daniel the Spaniel, whose tail seldom stopped.

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