choice of hymn from Sing Praise is, unlike many of the others, very well known
to me. “Brother, Sister, let me serve
you” is sung in many churches, but was also one of the hymns that my wife and I
chose for our church wedding at St Luke’s Eccleshill.
it makes a good wedding hymn is that it covers the many ways in which a couple in
a long-term relationship serve each other, irrespective of what religious
affiliation they may or may not have, but it is also a thoroughly Christian
text that begins “Brother, Sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you,
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too”. The inclusion of “grace” reminds us that we need
God’s help to make our relationships work well, and that second line points to
the truth that being served by others graciously takes effort and grace just as
much as being the servant.
ways of serving are summarised in the second verse as “we are here to help each
other walk the mile and bear the load”, a reference to Jesus’ teaching in the
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:41) that “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go
also the second mile”. This is itself said to be a reference to the Roman law
that a soldier could make someone carry their equipment for one mile, a law
invoked when Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross on the way to his
crucifixion. But forcing? compulsion? crucifixion?
How does that square with love? Perhaps it is intended to mean that when our
partner is suffering, is under the pressure of external forces, we are expected
to share that burden. It finds
expression also in the traditional English marriage service where each partner
is asked to make a vow to love the other “for better, for worse, for richer,
for poorer, in sickness and in health”. Marriage
cannot be expected to be a lifetime of easy happiness, but where there is the
commitment to support each other in all circumstances, it can survive and even
flourish and grow in difficult times.
two verses (3 & 4) list some of the ways this will work in practice: “I
will hold the Christ light for you in the night-time of your fear, I will hold
my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear”; “I will weep when you
are weeping, when you laugh I’ll laugh with you, I will share your joy and
sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through”.
verse is again thoroughly Christian as it looks forward to “singing to God in
heaven in perfect harmony”, although “we” here must mean the whole Christian community,
past, present and future, since Jesus taught that there will be no marriage in
heaven: our individual loving relationships will be blended into the perfect love
of God that God intended for all creation.
Linda and I have
been married for nearly eighteen years now. We’ve certainly known the ups and
downs of “sickness and health”; while not experiencing poverty we’ve known the
uncertainties of the private rental market and times when expenditure exceeded
income; and certainly our share of weeping and laughter. We can testify to the truth of the words of
The one line
I haven’t quoted yet is the first half of the second verse: “we are pilgrims on
a journey, and companions on the road”. Now you know where our domain name
(pilgrims.org.uk) comes from – from this hymn and our experience of living it