Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gather us in

We went to church in the west end of town last week. Their opening hymn was Gather Us In by Marty Haugen. I had never heard it before, and I really liked it -- both the lyrics and the tune.

JtM mentioned it tonight, in conjunction with something else, so I pulled out The Faith We Sing and read the words again. A communion post was forming in my mind, so I "googled" the song, so that I could copy and paste the words for the post, rather than type them.

One of the entries I found was on Beliefnet -- it is one of the hymns referenced in an article called "Heretical Hymns? Sacred songs gone wrong? You Decide."

The lyrics in question are:

Not in the dark of buildings confining
Not in some heaven, light years away,
But here in this place, the new light is
Now is the Kingdom, now is the day...

The Beliefnet article had two objections to these lyrics -- they seem to "dis" church building and "even the afterlife." Do you get that impression from these lyrics? I don't.

The point of this verse, I think, can be found in the last line -- "Now is the kingdom, now is the day." The kingdom of God is now and then. It is in the future and in the present. The kingdom of God cannot be confined to a church building; it cannot be found only sitting in a pew. God will not be trapped behind our closed door. He is everywhere.

The kingdom of God is not only to be found in some heaven, far away. God is here, now, with us. He is not sitting, far away, in a place we cannot touch or cannot even imagine. He's with us now. Here and now.

I don't think the song shows disrespect, either for church buildings or for heaven. The lyrics just point out the God is bigger than a church building and closer than a far off place.

Images: Crepe Myrtle from Mom's yard.



Blogger James said...

I too am a fan of "Gather Us In". As for the questionable lyrics that may be dissing church buildings, the hymn reminds us of what is really important about being a Christian and worshiping with others. Hint: It's not the building.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree (I also just saw the "Heretical Hymns" site) that this critique is wrong. "Not in the dark of buildings..." doesn't even have to refer to church buildings. It could refer to office buildings or castles, or anything else. If anything refers to a church, it is "here in this place...". Where are most hymns sung? A church building. I agree, the message is that the present moment is important and that God, our relationship, and His calling for us is immediate AND everlasting.

12:28 PM  

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