Monday, July 16, 2007
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place
How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?
Why was I made to hear the voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make the wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"
'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.
- Isaac Watts, Hymns and Sacred Songs, 1707 (Old Irish hymn melody)
I remember the first time that I really sang this song and the power behind the words met my heart and the Spirit really moved to show me what a gift God has given me through being included in His covenant and His kingdom...His Church. We first sang this, or when I really remembered it, when Husband and I came back from Ireland. We had just been in a beautiful country where church and Christ are not highly looked upon. They, like the U.S., are removing religion from their schools. Churches are having to close their doors and sell their buildings, which are then being turned into offices or others things of that nature. For example, St. Andrew's in Dublin now houses the Office of Tourism rather than gathered worshippers. And the churches that are open are reduced to opening the doors to tourists and charging them a fee to come in so that they can stay afloat.
Lord, "We long to see Thy churches full..."
I cry every time we sing this song in church. Maybe it's in some part that it is an Irish melody, but mostly it's because it is filled to the brim with the richness of who God is and His love for His bride, the Church. It is quickly becoming one of my favorites because of its potency. I think it may be taken from the book of Acts, but I need to look into that more. It moves me with the vastness of my sin and the need for a Savior in a fallen world. It speaks of unity and the Gospel going forth... there's so much here in these six little verses!
You can hear a midi file version of the hymn here - it's pretty much how we sing it at church (minus their noted second verse). I found some other versions online that just kind of scared me. :) But, I guess each to their own musical interpretation and arrangement. I will take our traditional piano any time, thanks.
Photo is of a small little chapel in Ireland, used only on holidays.