Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I sometimes envy our more liturgical brothers and sisters in Christ whose liturgy brings them to the Lords' table more frequently than we in the "Free Church" vein of Christendom generally practice. While there are pitfalls of what one of my Baptist forebears called "rutualism," contemplating the broken body and spilled blood is a healthy practice. As I study and ponder our focus for this coming Sunday morning, I have re-encountered some marvelous texts in our hymnal. What they have to say to us and what they equip us to say is powerful.

One that I hope to use this week (at least in our "traditional" service ... I'm still trying to figure out if it will fly in our "contemporary" service) grabbed me ... perhaps because of our tendency to look for lines along which we can divide ourselves. The text is by Tom Allen (about whom I know absolutely nothing). If you have to imagine a tune for this text, it is set to BEACH SPRING in our hymnal, and it fits rather nicely.

Jesus, at Your holy table,
May our hearts united be.
Bind us with Your grace and presence
That redeem and set us free.
Crucify our pride and hatred,
Light the path on which we walk.
Teach us how to love each other,
In the way that You have taught.

Christ, remind us of Your passion,
Of Your precious life outpoured,
Of the love which none can fathom,
And our vict'ry evermore.
Bread of heaven, wine of promise,
Feed us with Your holy Word.
Nourish us with Your strong presence,
Risen Savior, only Lord.

Lift your hearts and raise your voices,
Celebrate this wondrous love.
Join the chorus with all Christians,
And with saints who live above.
Silent lips now sing with gladness,
Blinded eyes are filled with sight.
Jesus' love has pierced our darkness,
Brought us home to peace and light.

Text © Copyright 1991 Broadman Press.

There are so many things that we have allowed to destroy our fellowship with each other. Tom Allen has given us good and healthy words to say about our togetherness at the Lord's table.



Blogger JATB said...


I don't think it's any coincidence that the churches in my own tradition that practice weekly Communion (and those numbers are increasing all the time) are also the churches in our tradition with a more ecumenical outlook.

I've got a long, long post working on this subject over on my blog. Give me a few days . . .

Love the hymn! Guess I'll have to buy the "new" Baptist Hymnal (the most recent one I have is the 1975 one). Yes, I know it's not really "new", but our denom's "new" hymnal is now 17 years old and everyone still calls it the "new" hymnal.

(A lot of people, myself included, still know the hymns by their numbers in the 1955 Hymnbook, which you may remember from Mountain Brook Pres.)

1:07 AM  
Blogger Morris said...

Thanks for the comment, man. Usually all I get is an empty echo from cyberspace.

If BH75 is the only representative Southern Baptist hymnal you have in your library ... PLEASE get another in your possession as soon as possible. Whether the 1991 hymnal, or the 1956 or the 1940 Broadman hymnal, I don't care. The 1975 hymnal is as dated as the clothing we were wearing at the time of its publication. It is, in my opinion, the weakest collection of worship song my tribe has ever published.

That being said, even the weakest hymnal has its strong points. There were a very few strong hymns that were in the 1975 hymnal that were omitted from the 1991 hymnal, but it has been so long since 1991 that I can't recall off the top of my head what they were. A couple of them weren't in the 1956 hymnal either, if memory serves.

Interesting note on Tom Allen: I researched him after I published my blog and discovered that he received an MDiv the same day I received my MCM from Southern Seminary and did his undergraduate work at Furman, just a few miles up the road from me. He's enough older than I am to have had an MCM under his belt before the MDiv. Unfortunately, I didn't know him while studying there.

There are several other strong texts concerning unity at the table in the 1991 hymnal. One of my favorites is Paul Richardson's "As He Gathered at His Table", though I like it better to BEACH SPRING as well. You have to double the stanzas and end up with 3 rather than 6, which is not as strong poesy, but it sings better than STUTTGART, which is the tune it's married to in TBH91.

Richardson was my voice prof and main mentor in seminary. He fixed a lot of the vocal problems I struggled with in undergrad study(and did the same for a couple of others after me with the same problems). He teaches at our alma mater now, and guess whose old studio was his last time I was there! It is Richardson's influence that haunts me to this day, forcing me to think theologically (as well as functionally) about everything I include (or am asked to include) in a worship service. He wasn't on the committee for TBH91, oddly enough ... so I don't know if STUTTGART was his choice or someone else's. It's still a great text, and one that has a lot to say about how we approach the table. I'll blog it soon.

9:40 AM  

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