I love the autumn. The crisp weather, the sunshine through the changing leaves, the magnificent colours I am privileged to see in the eastern Ontario landscape. It is a time when many of my favourite activities get started and yet we also celebrate the end of summer, harvest and are thankful. As we prepare for Thanksgiving next week, this hymn of praise seemed appropriate. It was suggested to me by two friends who shared that it was sung at their wedding. They both expressed that it had been meaningful before this event, but became even more so after.
This is a song of adoration. The words were originally written by Joachim Neander in German in 1680, and translated into English in 1863 by Catherine Winkworth. I am often struck by how some of these hymns span hundreds of years and can still provide meaning and inspiration to us. My favourite bits are in the second and last verses. Verse two speaks of how God “shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth.” What an image. I can understand why someone would choose this to mark the beginning of a marriage. It is both celebratory and filled with the promise of care.
The final verse has a statement that, I must admit, chokes me up every time I find myself singing it with others.
Let the “amen” sound from God’s people again.
There is something very powerful about voices joining together in an “amen” – something sort of primal. The word is a declaration of affirmation. It comes up in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and English – with variations in many other languages and is used in all sorts of religious practices. It sort of means we agree. Maybe it’s a bit naive to think we actually agree on much – and as we look around the world it seems we really, really don’t. But there is something spirit building about being in a space with people and choosing to say “amen” despite our differences. Choosing to look for ways to work together seeking something better; encouraging positive change, acceptance, peace and kindness. Idealistic I know, but when I sing this hymn it reminds me of that possibility on a very basic emotional level.
However you choose to say amen, and with whatever group you choose to do so, I hope this can be a reminder of how important it is to find a community with which to share your celebrations, your adorations and your songs.