Thanks be to God

Today’s hymn, not set for any particular season, is “Thanks be to God whose love has gathered us today”, with both words and music by Stephen Dean.  The theme throughout verses and chorus is simply thanking God, and it is a really uplifting hymn to sing, fulfilling St Paul’s exhortation to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20). 

At the start and end, thanksgiving is for the things you might expect: God’s love, help and guidance, life and light, protection, creation, and the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  That reminds me of the now rarely used “prayer of general thanksgiving” in the Book of Common Prayer, which in full reads “Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.”

Where this hymn departs from the expected range is in the middle – from the last line of verse 2 to the beginning of verse 4. Here, the text is realistic about the fact that our lives are often in a mess and we often fall away from God.  God is thanked in these lines for “keeping in mind us who forget him”, “knowing our secret joys and fears”, always hearing when we call on him, and being the one who “never turns his face away, heals and pardons all who stray.”   Perhaps God deserves our thanks for that compassionate, empathetic love more than anything.

1 thought on “Thanks be to God”

  1. I really enjoyed singing this hymn, and finding new gems like this is one of the things that makes a project like singing through the hymn book thoroughly worthwhile. (It’s the second new gem I’ve found this week – but the first was in Mission Praise, and not part of Stephen’s project). In general I subscribe to Article XXIV that “it is a thing repugnant to the word of God … to have public prayer … in a tongue not understanded of the people” – but the Latin phrase “Deo Gratias” is immediately followed by its translation and I guess I can make an exception. As Stephen points out, there are a couple of unusual lines – especially “who keeps in mind us who forget him” and “who heals and pardons all who stray”, which I very much appreciated.

    However, I was puzzled by a few things in the music. The G# in the tenor in bar 2 comes too early for such a departure from the home key – by contrast, surely the melody should have a G# in bar 5 to lead into the dominant of that line (as the tenor does in bar 6)? And in bar 6, surely the bass should rise from the B to F# instead of falling to the A – the chord in the second half of the bar is in the wrong inversion. And surely in bar 8 there should be an E to allow the suspension to be heard properly? In bar 11, when the C major chord occurs (which is a great piece of writing), surely the tenor should have an E because otherwise the third of the chord is missing? And the bass and tenor move in parallel 5ths in bar 12. Perhaps these are proofreading misprints, because this writer’s other two tunes in the book don’t have these kinds of errors.

    But these are easily corrected, and many thanks for introducing me to this hymn by your project, Stephen.

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