Suggested Hymns from

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 28(33), Year C

Unifying Theme:
The love and peace of God is with you today
and to the end of the world. Be strong. Stand firm. Rejoice!

Scripture Theme Hymns
Isaiah 65:17-25
Malachi 4:1-2a
A new age, with a new heaven and a new earth
The end of this age
384: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
545: The Church's One Foundation
Isaiah 12
Psalm 98
The prophet sings as the Psalmist!
Sing a jubilant song
685: Now, on Land and Sea Descending
702: Sing with All the Saints in Glory
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Be an example--live your faith 384: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
650: Give Me the Faith Which Can Remove
Luke 21:5-19 Stand firm 463: Lord, Speak to Me
529: How Firm a Foundation

Featured Hymn
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Hymn #384
Words by Charles Wesley
Music by John Zundel
Tune Name: BEECHER

Have you ever worked on a project knowing exactly how you would do it and exactly what kind of results you expected, and then found something completely different at the end? It probably happens to most of us from time to time. It also seems to be among the experiences of John and Charles Wesley. Each had gone to the American colony called Georgia. Each had aspirations of success in their work and ministry. They didn't succeed in their aspirations, though. Each became discouraged and they returned to their native England. Then each of them had life changing experiences. They became the instruments of a message that advanced the Methodist movement with a force neither of them had ever imagined.

Throughout this course of events, God was working in the lives of the Wesleys and the communities around them. No one could have expected things to unfold the way that they did. Historians still find far reaching impacts from the religious fires that ignited during the years of the Great Awakening--years when the Wesleys and many others proclaimed Christianity with great boldness. Many scholars even attribute the American Revolution to the philosophies and rhetoric of the Great Awakening, even though ironically John Wesley opposed the Revolution.

The Wesleys were ministers and sons of ministers. From the home environment in which they were raised, they probably thought they knew exactly how to go about ministry and exactly what kind of results to expect. What a surprise awaited them! Where they thought they would find success, they found failure. When they thought they had found failure, they found the love of God in great abundance. John carried this message from the pulpit. Charles carried this message in his pen. Here is a story about this week's featured hymn:

Charles Wesley wrote some of his hymns to promote his brother John's doctrine of entire sanctification. The second verse of his "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" asks God to "take away our bent to sinning." This was too much for Calvinist Augustus Toplady. In a magazine of which he was editor, Toplady wrote an article in refutation, detailing a picture of man's potential for sinning. He arrived at the mathematical conclusion that a man of eighty is guilty of many millions of sins, a debt he can never hope to pay but for which he need not despair because of the sufficiency of Christ. He closed the article with an original poem. "A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest believer in the World." This poem, now one of the most beloved hymns of all time, we know under the title, "Rock of Ages," was born out of party spirit (Frederick John Gilman, The Evolution of the English Hymn, Macmillan, 1927, pp. 223-225).

Can both writers be correct? Can God's love enter a trembling heart and "take away our bent to sinning?" Can we be hidden in the Rock of Ages, where the water and the blood are our double cure? Hallelujah, yes to both! May we be washed as we cling to the cross; may the love of God fill our hearts with a hunger solely for righteousness. May we truly know divine Love, and may we truly live it as we live in it.

What a wonderful and unexpected blessing we have today--on account of that discord! Love Divine, All Loves Excelling also fits beautifully with this week's Lectionary passages. Here are the words (including those "controversial" lines in verse 2):

1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.
2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.
3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

May you be lost in wonder, love, and praise this week, too.

God bless you--
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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.