Sunday, June 01, 2008

Where cross the crowded ways of life

is an urban, gritty hymn, with a "social justice" theme. We sang it this morning in our traditional service, but it didn't seem to fit the sermon theme--Acts 24:10-27, Paul's encounter with his enemies and his imprisonment for the Gospel. You've all heard the tune, I'm sure. If not, sit back and enjoy this--it will come back to you.

There's a long list of humanity's problems in this hymn,
    cries of race and clan

    noisy selfish crowds

    wretchedness and need

    dark spaces of fear

    paths that lead to greed

    helpless children

    grieving women

    toiling men

    famished souls

    deep sorrow

    multitudes longing

    restless throngs
but no solution, no mention of Jesus by name, his miracles, his sermons, the cross, his death for our sin, the resurrection. No gospel. It's Jesus of the tender heart and compassionate face, with tears on our behalf. The writer, Frank Mason North, 1850-1935, offers the familiar "follow the Master" solution, "Till glorious from thy heaven above, Shall come the city of our God."

Except for the music this hymn wouldn't rouse a wild eyed poverty pimping Father Pfleger or a mild mannered conservative Lutheran.

1 comment:

robert said...

Thanks for posting the blog on Frank Mason North's powerful hymn. (Today is the 159th anniversary of his birth.)

You are correct in noting that the hymn describes many urban problems, but does not present the solution. However, I wouldn't discard the song on that basis. It should be used in context. That is, as part of a service in which other hymns, Scriptures, the sermon, etc. present God's answers to the needs described.

If you enjoy reading about hymns and their authors, I invite you to bookmark my daily blog on the subject, Wordwise Hymns. God bless.