Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WORSHIP THE KING....the Hymns story

Worship the King

Sir Robert Grant, 1779-1838
worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing his
 power and his love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of
 Days, Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
LAST ast winter on a rainy weekday I wheeled my cart out of the
 Safeway. It was 5:00 P.M., not my usual time to shop or be at
 this busy plaza intersection, and I wasn't expecting a forceful,
 sensual reminder of the God who owns the air we breathe. As if
 it ruled the dusk, the carillon of some nearby church broadcast
 the melody of "O worship the King, all glorious above, O
 gratefully sing his power and his love."

Knowing the words, I smiled and joined the praises.

Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite? It breathes in the

air, it shines in the light; It streams from the hills, it descends to

 the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Robert Grant's hymn—-based on themes and images of Psalm

 104—describes a Creator God who, though not nature itself, is

 intricately connected to and obviously evident through the

 created world. Martin Luther described Psalm 104 as "a praise

 of God from the book of Nature." God is great; you can see it's

 in his ancient but enduring creative work. God, says the


wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the
 heavens like a tent. . . . He makes the clouds his chariot and
 rides on the wings of the wind.

The psalm is long, thirty-five verses, and with a few digressions

 follows the Genesis progression of creation: God is the Lord of

 the light; his fountains water the flora; the animals, the sea

 creatures—-including the mysterious leviathan—all look to

 God for sustenance and breath. This is a mighty God, worthy of


O tell of his might, O sing of his grace, Whose robe is the light, 
whose canopy space; His chariots of wrath the deep thunder-
clouds form, And dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

That afternoon as I walked through the Safeway parking lot, in
 the.wake of a storm, the witness of Grant's airborne music was
 particularly powerful because it took me by surprise. To me the
 song feels so Protestant, so Anglo (written by a member of the
 British parliament eventually knighted), so "establishment" (in
 several old hymnals it is printed as hymn number 1, as if it were
 the mother of all songs). Considering its British, regal aura, its
 distilling presence felt disconcertingly uncharacteristic of my
 community. I do not live in a white, Anglo neighborhood.
 Within a mile of my home you'll find Vietnamese, Korean, and
 Spanish-speaking churches. Within two miles there's a
 traditional black Baptist congregation, the Ethiopian Coptics,
 and, over near the Safeway, a Muslim mosque. This is not to
 say that most of my neighbors gather for worship. They don't.
That afternoon the carillon's music descended on shoppers and
 commuters who didn't recognize the song; they didn't smile at
 the first ascending notes and eagerly join in with praises to the
 "Ancient of Days." And yet at any moment of any day God
 invites them-—-and you and me again and again—to look to
 the heavens and the earth, the Kght and night, the rain and dew,
 the created world, and catch a glimpse of the wonder of the
 work of God's hand.

The earth with its store of wonders untold, Almighty, thy power
 hath founded of old; Hath stablished it fast by a changeless
 decree, And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

O measureless Might, ineffable Love, While angels delight to
 hymn thee above, Thy humbler creation, though feeble their
 lays, With true adoration shall sing to thy praise*
Lord, open my eyesand my neighbors'to see you in your
creation. Prompt me to worship you for your creation, but
 remind me that you are the Eternal Being beyond creation
 who set it all in motion.


These Grant verses are are generally missing from modern hymnals. The last verse, "O measureless Might," is reminiscent of Psalm 103: God knows we are dust; angels and all God's works—praise him.


Evelyn Bence. 





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