Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vessels of God's Grace

Carl Daw was born in Kentucky and spent most of his young life in Tennessee following around his father, a Baptist preacher. He taught English for a number of years before entering an Episcopal seminary (University of the South, Sewanee). He served three congregations before working with the committee that produced The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal) and, since 1996, ha served as Executive Director of the Hymn Society of America.

The Lutheran Service Book includes four of his compositions but this hymn (#678) is one of my favorites. It is notable for being in the section of "The Church Triumphant." It speaks of those unknown and unnoticed saints who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and lived out their lives without drawing much attention to themselves. They were content merely to serve as "vessels of God's grace."

There is something quite profound in these anonymous saints. No cathedrals or country churches are named after them. They are gone and mostly forgotten (except to God). This is not some sad and regrettable thing -- it is not like they are due justice for the forgetful memory of the Church. They were content to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and sought out none of the limelight. To us they are unsung but to the Father in heaven they are His beloved.

Since I fall into the class of the relatively anonymous saints and most of God's people whom I have served can be characterized this way, I take heart to the poet's words. They describe a certain humble nobility of those living stones whom God has used to build up His House. Every day I aspire to be the kind of person that Daw wrote about -- the bereft of earthly fame, the faithful one who offers back his life to God in whatever circumstance we are in. And is content. To God be the Glory!

We Sing for All the Unsung Saints

1 We sing for all the unsung saints,
That countless, nameless throng,
Who kept the faith and passed it on
With hope steadfast and strong
Through all the daily griefs and joys
No chronicles record,
Forgetful of their lack of fame,
But mindful of their Lord.

2 Though uninscribed with date or place,
With title, rank, or name,
As living stones their stories join
To form a hallowed frame
Around the myst’ry in their midst:
The Lamb once sacrificed,
The Love that wrested life from death,
The wounded, risen Christ.

3 So we take heart from unknown saints
Bereft of earthly fame,
Those faithful ones who have received
A more enduring name:
For they reveal true blessing comes
When we our pride efface
And offer back our lives to be
The vessels of God’s grace.

(c) Hope Publishing Company; Used by permission. OneLicense.Net A707981

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