Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Seamless Robe that Jesus Wore

The first year we did Sunday Nights in the Neighborhood, it was just among the Baptist churches in our area. Last year our local pastors broadened it to include our brothers and sisters in Christ from other denominations as well. How refreshing that, while maintaining our individuality as congregations, we can agree on the essentials and celebrate our unity in Christ … at least for a few Sunday nights each summer.

Last Sunday night while a Baptist preached in the stoic, gothic beauty of First Presbyterian Church, I was looking for a possible closing hymn (which we don’t normally have with Sunday Nights in the Neighborhood, but the Methodist leading the music suggested that we might need). I happened upon the following text attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier.

Forgive, O Lord, our severing ways
The rival altars that we raise,
The wrangling tongues that mar Thy praise.

Thy grace impart, in time to be
Shall one great temple rise to Thee,
One Church for all humanity.

White flowers of love its walls shall climb,
Soft bells of peace shall ring its chime,
Its days shall all be holy time.

A sweeter song shall then be heard,
Confessing, in a world’s accord,
The inward Christ, the living Word.

That song shall swell from shore to shore,
One hope, one faith, one love restore
The seamless robe that Jesus wore.

Because I found parts of this text (but not the whole) to be quite profound, I searched the internet for the text to see if there were more stanzas that might strengthen the weaker stanzas, but couldn’t find anything in the exact form as above. Some of the key phrases are in a hymn that Whittier wrote for the dedication of a chapel near Mt. Shasta … but that text is significantly different. It makes me wonder who edited this for the hymnals in which it appears, and how much is really Whittier.

So what grabbed me? Look at the first stanza. It doesn’t matter how eloquent we are in our words of praise to God, anything that we do that results in disunity in the body of Christ vandalizes what could be a magnificent work of beauty.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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