Christ has gathered us together

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Christ has gathered us together” by Stephen Dean. Like yesterday’s hymn it’s set for Maundy Thursday but unlike that one, is not specific to the occasion and could be sung at any time.

The reason for putting it in this seasonal section of the hymn book may be that the hymn is actually about Christian love, the words of the chorus being “Faith, hope and love, these three shall remain, but the greatest of all is love” (1 Corinthians 13:11). And Jesus’ ‘discourse’ about love in John’s gospel, with its practical demonstration of washing the disciples’ feet, took place on the occasion of the Last Supper on that day.  This year, Covid hygiene rules mean that no feet can be washed literally, but the challenge still remains to find practical ways of showing love for each other in these strange times.

The first verse of the hymn covers the gathering together of God’s people to show our love for him in worship, with the reminder that we must “love our God sincerely, loving one another likewise. God is truly love”.  A love for Jesus that fails to be matched with love for his other disciples is not sincere.

The second covers being together, and the need when assembled to ‘banish divisions, end bitterness and forget quarrels’. That’s easier said than done, and while we may manage to be all smiles at the sharing of the Peace, what is harder is to go back out into everyday life having left those divisions, bitterness and quarrels behind for good, truly having become the one body of Christ that we profess to be.  The setting of this hymn for the day before Good Friday may, then, be quite appropriate, as it is by the Cross and Resurrection that Jesus demonstrates the extent of his own love and creates the new fellowship in his Church (fully realised at Pentecost, so it would also be a good choice on that occasion).

The final verse looks towards heaven, where we will have “joy with all the saints … peace and happiness unbounded”.  But the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus was wont to say, starts here and now.

1 thought on “Christ has gathered us together”

  1. I think I wrote earlier about my difficulties with the hymn “Ubi Caritas”, and expressed my difficulties with 1 John 4:16 when taken in isolation out of its context – so I expected to have difficulties with this hymn which says at the bottom that it is based on “Ubi Caritas”. But actually I didn’t find the problem I anticipated: Stephen Dean keeps to St Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians and manages not to slip into the problem in his verse 1.

    Nevertheless I think it presents only one side of an argument. The plain fact is that Paul was prepared to confront what he saw as wrong, and to strive and quarrel for it – that’s the background to Galatians 2, as well as his more long-term crusade against the Judaizers in many of his letters. In fact most of the New Testament documents were born in controversy of some sort – why else would Paul write except to give his readers a position to hold when it was under attack? I’d love to find a hymn which recognizes this truth, and sets it alongside the duty to love one another.

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