Tag Archives: Sabbath Day

Hymn #150: O Thou Kind and Gracious Father

I love the simplicity of this prayer, for that is what this particular hymn is: a prayer to our Father in Heaven. The soaring first lines acknowledges His greatness and goodness and our comparative insignificance:

O thou kind and gracious Father,
Reigning in the heav’ns above,
Look on us, thy humble children;
Fill us with thy holy love.
Fill us with thy holy love.

I leave that repetition because that is the phrase I’d like to address. The remaining two verses continue the prayer–we ask our Father to instruct us in how to better serve and revere Him, to resist temptation, to do His will–but it’s that “holy love” in the first verse which stands out to me.

It brings to my mind the word “charity”, which we generally (and sometimes glibly) define as “the pure love of Christ” (see Moroni 7:47). That preposition “of” is a tricky one; it holds a surprising number of different meanings, depending on context, for such a short word.

“The pure love of Christ” could mean “pure love from Christ”, i.e. the love he has for all mankind. This is the love that prompted him to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins, to suffer beyond human capability, and to die that we might live again.

“The pure love of Christ” could also mean “pure love for Christ”, i.e. the love we have for our Savior because of his Atonement in our behalf.

“The pure love of Christ” also means–and this is one of the most common interpretations I come across–”pure love like Christ”, i.e. the love we have for our brothers and sisters in mortality. This is the love that prompts us to reach out in service and lift others in kindness.

And here’s how they all tie together:

  • God loves us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
  • Jesus Christ loves us: “And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” 1 Nephi 19:9
  • We love Jesus: “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
  • Because we love him, we are obedient to him: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
  • He asks us to love one another: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

So when we ask to be filled with God’s holy love, we are praying to be reminded of His love for us, to take advantage of the Atonement offered by His Son, and to have His help in loving those around us.

It is still a simple request, but sometimes a difficult one to fulfill. We are, after all, human. Sometimes we’re not especially loveable. Fortunately, God loves all of us and He answers all of our prayers. We can be filled with the pure love of Christ. We can learn to do His will, to love and serve His children, and to gain eventual salvation.

We simply have to ask for and accept His help.

Hymn #146: Gently Raise the Sacred Strain

Gently raise the sacred strain,
For the Sabbath’s come again
That man may rest,
And return his thanks to God
For his blessings to the blest.

Why do we worship?

Why do we take a day off each week and spend it in church, singing hymns, listening to sermons, engaging in prayer, and doing any of a number of things that take the place of something much more fun? We could be watching football with friends, taking a drive through the country, or going to the movies. Surely anything would beat sitting through church, right? Worse yet, once church is over, we’re not supposed to come home, peel off our Sunday clothes, and run out and catch up with all of those fun things we set aside for a few hours. We’re supposed to stay home and spend the day with family. Ugh, right? Sundays are so restrictive!

Well, while it may feel that way sometimes, we might do well to remember that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Sundays aren’t designed to punish us, or to make us feel constrained or miserable. The Sabbath is designed for us, and specifically “that [we] may rest.” It’s a day for us to rest from our labor, but also from the hustle and bustle of our lives. We spend the day in quiet contemplation, thinking about the ways we have been blessed and returning our thanks unto Him who gave us those blessings. That’s not to say, of course, that we are to sit at home all day ticking off blessings until it’s time to go to bed. We can find plenty of good ways to fill our time and still keep the Sabbath a holy day. But we are to rest, not only as a way of rejuvenating ourselves for the coming week, but also as a way of taking time out of our lives to remember the Lord. That might mean sacrificing things that others enjoy on Sundays, whether that’s playing golf with friends, going to brunch at a nice restaurant, or anything else.

I’m struck by the fact that we raise the sacred strain “gently.” So much of what we do in the gospel is with kindness and softness. There’s no need to declare our Sabbath activities from the rooftops. We go about our days quietly, gently, and with meekness. We “partake the sacrament in remembrance of our Lord.” We do our best to keep Sunday a “holy day, devoid of strife.” And perhaps most importantly, we make our day emblematic of our lives by making it an offering to the Lord. He asks for one day out of seven to be His, and we offer it to Him willingly. So too do we offer our lives to Him, and on the Sabbath we rededicate ourselves to that offering by partaking of the sacrament. “We bring our gifts around of broken hearts as a willing sacrifice,” we sing in the third verse, “showing what his grace imparts.” We submit our hearts and our wills to Him, and when we meet on Sundays, we have the chance to see that sacrifice in others, and we can see the blessings that dedication to the Savior brings. That inspires us to redouble our efforts in His service, knowing what we can become as we give ourselves to Him.

We learn of Him on the Sabbath, and we learn how to become more like Him. By partaking of the sacrament–the only ordinance we take part in more than once in our lifetime–we remember the magnitude of the sacrifice He made for us, and we remember that we have taken upon us His name, and that through that name and sacrifice, we can be made clean again. We worship the Lord because He made it possible for us to return to that purified state, and we dedicate our Sundays each week to give ourselves the chance to contemplate that fact. It’s something that can take more than a couple of hours each week, and it’s why worship isn’t something that is restricted to a meetinghouse, but is constantly before us.

Holy, holy is the Lord.
Precious, precious is his word:
Repent and live,
Repent and live;
Tho your sins be crimson red,
Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.

Hymn #147: Sweet Is the Work

The work doesn’t feel very sweet today. It feels heavy and sad and a little bit futile. Many things are weighing on my mind and my spirit, and a hymn of triumph and joy is not exactly fitting for my mood.

But the text of this hymn brings me hope.

I love the Lord. I love to “praise [his] name, give thanks and sing.” I see his hand in my life and know that he is mindful of me. His truths–even the ones I don’t fully comprehend–are beautiful, and I love to learn about and discuss them. Writing about the hymns here brings joy and an added measure of the Spirit into my life.

But I know that there are many who do not feel that way. I have brothers and sisters whose hearts are seized by mortal cares, who are unsure of his divine counsels and wonder whether they shine brightly enough to cut through the darkness of doubt.

This is my prayer: that my heart may be found in tune with God’s will. That “my inward foes shall all be slain nor Satan break my peace again.” That I can live in such a way that “when in the realms of joy I see [God's] face” it will be in full felicity, because I will know that despite my weaknesses I have done my best.

It’s my prayer for all of you as well. Because while we may not know everything now, someday we will. When we return to our heavenly home, “then shall [we] see and hear and know all [we] desired and wished below.”

Our knowledge will be complete. Everything will make sense and wrongs will be made right.

And oh, how sweet it will be.