This past Spring, I taught a class at church on the Psalms. We went through a different category of Psalms during each week of class, so that one week was Psalms of lament, the next was praise, thanksgiving, imprecatory, etc. Towards the end of the semester, I taught on the prophetic and justice Psalms, which call the people of God back to covenant faithfulness to their God, to their neighbor, and to their land; to observe justice, righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, and love.Read More
In light of the history of our country, the events of the last year, and the tragedy in Charleston, our church, Redeemer Presbyterian, recently began a series on Race and the Church. Incorporating corporate song into a series on race and justice issues can be challenging because there are, comparatively, few congregational songs that accompany this theme, though that number is ever-growing.
I have always enjoyed the text to the hymn In Christ There Is No East or West by William A. Dunkerley, but have never found a tune for it that I find suitable for my context. Once we began this series, I began reading the hymn anew for this new season in our country and in the Church. As I read the text, I mourned over the fact that though it is true that "in Christ there is no East or West," it is a truth that is so rarely cherished or displayed in our ecclesial life here in America. So the tune, I suppose quite naturally, started out as a dirge in the style of New Orleans.
But the story doesn't end there. Over the past year and even in the past weeks, I have seen some amazing moments of understanding, reconciliation, and unity here in my land. Surely Jesus' own words will be fulfilled: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 8:11 ESV). My wife, Melissa, listened to my melody and instantly heard (and sung to me) a gospel chorus to accompany it. It completed and rounded out the tune, both musically and theologically. I wrote one verse (v.3) to explore the nitty-grittiness of racial reconciliation: walls of hostility, the Christ who tears them down, and the unity of the family of God.
Here's what came out of all of that:
1. In Christ there is no East or West, in Him no North or South;
but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.
2. In Him shall true hearts everywhere their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord, close binding humankind.
Join hands, then, members of the faith, whate'er your race may be;
who serves my Father as His child is surely kin to me.
3. In Him those walls shall tumble down, that bear hostility,
and the whole family of God shall dwell in unity.
4.In Christ now meet both East and West; in Him meet North and South:
all Christlike souls are one in Him throughout the whole wide earth.
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