Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Psalm 65; Psalm 67:6
Text: John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875) Tune: Johann Steurlein (1546-1613)
1, Sing to the Lord of harvest, Sing songs of love and praise; With joyful hearts and voices Your alleluias raise! By him the rolling seasons In fruitful order move; Sing to the Lord of harvest A song of happy love.
2. By him the clouds drop fatness, The deserts bloom and spring, The hills leap up in gladness, The valleys laugh and sing. He filleth with his fullness All things with large increase; He crowns the year with goodness, With plenty, and with peace.
3. Heap on his sacred altar The gifts his goodness gave, The golden sheaves of harvest, The souls Christ died to save. Your hearts lay down before him When at his feet you fall, And with your lives adore him Who gave his life for all.
4. To God the gracious Father, Who made us "very good," To Christ, who, when we wandered, Restored us with his blood, And to the Holy Spirit, Who doth upon us pour His blessed dews and sunshine, Be praise forevermore.
Thanksgiving is approaching. Like all families we had several rituals associated with the harvest. Best was mother coming up out of the basement with the first jar of canned peaches. Pinkish golden and syrupy, perfectly placed in the jars at August, they were a pleasure all their own. That began the festivities of the holiday season. It will be different this year, but the cycles of nature haven’t stopped, thank goodness. Although most of us are far away from the farms, we know at some level we depend on them for life. And the harvest time, no matter how good or bad, is always a time for thanksgiving. Nothing we eat or hardly anything we need for clothing or shelter was not once living, vegetable or animal. God grants the growth. I look around my apartment and try to find something that hasn’t been a living thing once. I can find almost nothing except for metals and stone.
So weather—the sun, rain, snow, and their cycles all must combine to give us life. Which God gives. In the creation story and throughout Scripture, God blesses that which will be fruitful, it is his continuing creation. And so we give thanks.
I like that Monsell uses the language of Scripture in his list of things we give thanks for, the clouds drop fatness on the land, for us a strange image, but it is true. Rain feeds the land so that it becomes fat--something back then that was prized because it meant richness of life. He ends the hymn with language of what God has done for us in Jesus. There are several scholars, I among them, who think that Jesus, when he is blessing his followers at the Ascension, is blessing them as God did Adam and Eve—be fruitful and multiply—to the church. Go and multiply the numbers of believers through his word which engenders faith and new life in people. At the end of this hymn, the Holy Spirit is said to pour over us what we need to live and flourish—"who doth upon us pour/His blessed dews and sunshine,/Be praise forevermore.”
Drink deeply from these “blessed dews and sunshine," even in these dark days of November. Look with pleasure and joy at the bright orange pumpkin and full cupboards in your kitchen and give thanks, for that, and for the abundance of his grace.
HYMN INFO John Monsell was born in Ireland and received a fine education at Trinity College in Dublin. He served several churches there before being transferred to England where he became rector of Egham in Surrey and St. Nicholas in Guilford. He died there while working on the roof of the church, falling to his death. He left behind many hymns, over 300. His interest in writing the hymns was the seasons of the year especially. This hymn was first published in 1866 in his collection Hymns of Love and Praise. It is still popular in English speaking countries.
The tune, "Wie lieblich ist der Maien," was a love song at first, celebrating the joys of springtime. "How lovely is May," is still a popular hymn in Germany. Steurlein was born in Schmalkalden, Thuringia, and studied law at Wittenberg. He became cantor and organist in his local Lutheran church and also served in civil roles such as mayor and secretary to the Elector of Saxony. A gifted poet, he turned the entire bible into rhymed verse. This tune is the one that has remained the most popular of the many he wrote.
LINKS Charlotte NC Choir singing Healy Wilan anthem https://youtu.be/rjGlD7pKLf4
OCP Choir https://youtu.be/-hfP0q7fLl4
Musik an der Kilianskirche Heilbronn/Women’s choir https://youtu.be/dy5md7V68rI