The old hymn, “We Gather Together” is most often associated with Thanksgiving or a way to sing “grace” before a meal with a large gathering or group.
Yesterday, as I watched the proceedings, in my cool air-conditioned house…of the crowds standing in 90 degree (plus heat) … patiently waiting on the hot sidewalks and streets of downtown Charleston…(for a chance to get into the arena where the funeral service for Reverend Clementa Pinckney was to be held)….I, once again, marveled at the power of love…which is synonymous with the power of God. After all…God is Love.
The idea that love is the strongest force on earth was certainly re-enforced yesterday by the sheer number of individuals (both local, national, and international) who came to Charleston for the sole purpose of gathering together with their fellow man to show hate that the love in Charleston is too strong to allow it to settle in and stay.
Perhaps “hate” might have better luck surviving and thriving in another town, state, or country…but not in our beloved “Holy City.” We simply don’t have room in our hearts for anything else outside of love…because love is all encompassing.
After yesterday’s service I think we can all agree that there was a sense of “Thanksgiving” present…thanking God for giving us a Clementa Pinckney and so many more good men and women to fight the good fight for equality and respect for their fellow man.
And welcome back Reverend President Obama…it was good to see you again…the fiery orator with blazing eyes filled with renewed determination to change the things that hold our country back from being the best it can be. (And a great singing voice in addition….)
The origin of the hymn “We Gather Together” dates back to the 1500’s and was written in response to a war between the Dutch and the Spanish Empire.
The story begins with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. He had been born in the Netherlands (Holland), and his empire included the Netherlands. Charles and his son, King Philip II, considered it their duty to eradicate Protestantism, which had established a strong foothold in the Netherlands.
The Dutch rebelled and many Dutch Protestants were executed for their beliefs against Catholicism. Eventually, however, the Spanish were weakened by the fighting and forced to leave…bringing about the “Golden Period” in Dutch history.
This hymn was written near the end of the 16th century (some say 1597) to acknowledge that turbulent past and to look to a better future:
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” acknowledges their need––a need made apparent by the suffering they had undergone.
“He chastens” alludes to the events just past.
“The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing” alludes to the violence of the Spanish soldiers–– a violence now stilled.
“He forgets not his own” is a tribute of praise to God for allowing them to emerge triumphant from their turbulent history.
Lyrics to this Famous Hymn
* As you read the lyrics you see how appropriate they are for the tragedy at the Emanuel AMS church…
- We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
- Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
- We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh