Sundays After Pentecost
22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
|Responsibility for the Poor,
Justice for the Poor
God's New Day
427 Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
436 The Voice of God is Calling
434 Cuando El Pobre
432 Jesu, Jesu
305 Camina, Pueblo de Dios
384 Love Divine
57 O For a Thousand Tongues
567 Heralds of Christ
|Security in God,
Stability of God's People
Trust in God,
God's Bias for the Oppressed
|60 I'll Praise My Maker While I've Breath
141 Children of the Heavenly Father
73 O Worship the King
140 Great is Thy Faithfulness
|Mark 7:24-37||The Claim of "Outsiders",
Social Roles Challenged
God, Your Love has Called Us Here
549 Where Charity of Love Prevail
276 The First One Ever
|James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17||Good Works,
Solidarity with the Poor
|581 Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service
587 Bless Thou the Gifts
593 Here I Am, Lord
Text: Frank Mason North
For most modern readers of the text of this hymn by Dr. Frank Mason North, it is hard to imagine that he had in mind only the New York City of 1905. His portrayal of the human needs of urban dwellers is equally compelling today whether one is familiar with Tulsa, Oklahoma or Washington, D.C.; Albuquerque or Atlanta; Wichita or Dallas. And its vision of God's City as the alternative to urban realities is as needed today at the end of the 20th Century as it was at its beginning.
Dr. North, a New York Methodist Episcopal clergyman and respected leader of the forerunner of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, had a chance meeting in 1903 with a member of the 1905 Methodist Hymnal Commission. He was asked to write a mission hymn for the book. He thought first of the mission work with which he was most familiar -- New York City. Then while preparing a sermon on Matt. 22:9, he read a translation which expanded the familiar language of the KJV "highways" to "partings of the highways."
Intrigued by that image, Dr. North's sermon developed around some of the world's great centers at the convergence of city streets. This led particularly to the first line of the hymn. Then the 2nd verse reflects his first hand knowledge of the inner city -- squalid tenements, dumbell-shaped apartments were the only light and air for inner rooms is a narrow shaft into which tenants throw their rubbish, dark basement one-room apartments cluttered with all the family's possessions, the one hall toilet serving half a dozen families (the old and the little ones, of various races, languages and characters), shared by vagrants, drug dealers and users, innocent children and diseased prostitutes.
At the time of this hymn's writing middle class Americans had no conception of the way people in the major cities of our world lived. One has to ask if even late 20th century TV technology has portrayed it in all its degredations and miseries. North's hymn helps to keep this part of our culture in the Christian worldview.
But what about rural dwellers who sing this hymn? Would it not be appropriate to remind them that the ills of the inner city are creeping into the rural centers of the world as well? That classism and racism and greed are present even in their world?
The hymn first appeared in a 1903 organ of the New York City Mission Society, and then was included in the 1905 hymnal. It has appeared in every subsequent hymnal of the Methodist Church.
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Lection at HymnSite.com
Contributed by Rev. Linda K. Morgan-Clark
See also Index listings: "Social Concerns" p.952; also Hymns 425-450 (Social Holiness)
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|