Tag Archives: sacrifice

The Big Question – Life & Work (Church of Scotland magazine) April 2019

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April 21, 2019 · 11:10

I vow to thee, my country

I VOW TO THEE MY COUNTRY

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago, Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King; Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase, And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

PUBLISHED: 00:37, 9 November 2013 – Daily Mail

'Obscene': Reverend Gordon Giles claims the words of I Vow to Thee My Country are obscene, offensive and unfit to be sung by Christians

‘Obscene’: Reverend Gordon Giles claims the words of I Vow to Thee My Country are obscene, offensive and unfit to be sung by Christians

A leading Church of England vicar yesterday condemned the words of one of the country’s best-loved hymns as obscene, offensive and unfit to be sung by Christians.

The Reverend Gordon Giles, one of the Anglicans’ leading authorities on hymns, declared that I Vow to Thee My Country should be rewritten if it is to be sung by modern congregations.

His verdict was delivered in advance of the remembrance weekend when the hymn, which is especially valued by military families, will feature in thousands of services across the country and the Commonwealth.

Its patriotic words, written in the final year of the First World War, speak of the ‘final sacrifice’ made by those that love their country, and end with a promise of peace in heaven.

But Mr Giles – a former succentor responsible for hymns at St Paul’s – called I Vow to Thee My Country ‘dated’ and ‘unjust’.

He said in an article in the Church Times: ‘Many would question whether we can sing of a love that “asks no question”, that “lays on the altar the dearest and the best” and that juxtaposes the service of country and that “other country” of faith.

 ‘Should we, undaunted, make the sacrifice of our sons and daughters, laying their lives on the altar in wars that we might struggle to call holy or just?”

‘The notion of vowing everything to a country, including the sacrifice of one’s life for the glorification of nationhood, challenges sensibilities today.’

Valued: His verdict was delivered in advance of the remembrance weekend when the hymn, which is especially valued by military families, will feature in thousands of services across the country and the Commonwealth

Valued: His verdict was delivered in advance of the remembrance weekend when the hymn, which is especially valued by military families, will feature in thousands of services across the country and the Commonwealth

Mr Giles said that the hymn had a ‘dated military concept of fighting for King and country.

This, he said, ‘gives offence, as it is based on the idea of a king as head of an empire, whose bounds need to be preserved for the benefit of subjects at home and abroad.

‘In post-colonial Britain this comes across as patronising and unjust. Associating duty to King and Empire with a divine call to kill people and surrender one’s own life is a theologically inept reading of Jesus’ teaching.’

Mr Giles, who is vicar of St Mary Magdalene in Enfield in North London, added: ‘Furthermore, if the cause is wealth, power, influence, national pride, then the sacrifice is diminished and its connection to the pride of suffering is, for me, almost obscene.’

The hymn is based on a poem written by British diplomat Sir Cecil Spring-Rice in 1908. Sir Cecil became ambassador in Washington charged with persuading America to enter the war against Germany, and heavily re-wrote his poem in January 1918, shortly before he died.

The new emphasis on sacrifice came in the final months of a war which saw more than three million British Empire casualties, including over 900,000 deaths.

Composer Gustav Holst, who was director of music at St Paul’s Girls School, where Spring-Rice’s daughter was a pupil, set the words to a slightly altered version of the Jupiter theme from his Planets suite in 1921.

With its stirring new tune, called Thaxted, it rapidly became a staple of Anglican worship.

However left-wing and liberal teachers turned against it after the Second World War, and nine years ago a Church of England bishop, the then Bishop of Hulme, the Right Reverend Stephen Lowe, described it as ‘heretical’ and accused it of having ‘echoes of 1930s nationalism in Germany and some of the nastier aspects of right-wing republicanism in the United States.’

Its unpopularity with some Church of England clergy mirrors the fate of another hymn that dates from World War One. Blake’s Jerusalem, set to music in 1916 by Sir Hubert Parry, is now often regarded by Anglican leaders as unsuitable for Church use.

While frowned on by some clerics, both songs remain treasured by millions.

I Vow to Thee My Country has been used as an anthem by England sports teams and featured in the opening ceremony of the Paralympics last year.

Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said that churchmen who dislike the hymn are out of touch with their congregations.

Criticism: Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said that churchmen who dislike the hymn are out of touch with their congregations

Criticism: Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said that churchmen who dislike the hymn are out of touch with their congregations

Sir Gerald, Tory MP for Aldershot, said: ‘Any Church of England vicar should know that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England is the Queen. I am not sure a Church of England cleric should be taking this view of Her Majesty.

‘He is completely out of touch with the spirit of the times. There are more poppies being worn this year than ever and the armed forces have never been held in higher regard.

‘A vicar of all people should not be so insensitive at a time of remembrance of those who have made the final sacrifice, for the freedom of vicars to say insulting things.’

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November 9, 2013 · 12:31

No excuses

In 1536 Reformer William Farel recruited John Calvin to come to Geneva,  to minister to the congregation of St. Peter’s Church in that Swiss city.

Calvin, a sickly man all his life, was on his way to Strasbourg to be a quiet scholar, but he relented under this need, this request, to become a pastor. 

Two years later, the city fathers publicly banished Calvin from Geneva. Actually, Calvin felt relieved. The moral chaos of the city was terrible. He went to Strasbourg.

Three years later in 1541, the same city fathers who had tried to humiliate him begged Calvin to return and help restore order. 

He didn’t want to go this second time, either, “yet,” he wrote, “because I know that I am not my own master, I offer my heart as a true sacrifice to the Lord.”

This became the motto of Calvin’s life. His emblem would include a hand holding out a heart to God with the inscription, prompte et sincere (“promptly and sincerely”).

Promptly and sincerely Calvin answered a call to very difficult task.

There are many times in our own life, when we don’t feel like taking a course of action, because it would be inconvenient or risky or just plain boring.  And we do not respond “promptly and sincerely”, but rather make our excuses…and some of them can be pretty lame and rather unconvincing.

But the greatest of folk down through the centuries, have, despite knowing that the outcome of their action could impact negatively upon them, accepted the challenge.

Jesus Christ was determined to go to Jerusalem even though he knew that it would probably mean death for him in the end. But for him, there was no turning back

He knew that he had to go.

Certainly in the early church when this Gospel was being written followers of Jesus faced great opposition from their families and close friends.  They were even in some cases considered dead by the family.  Funerals were probably held for them.  How can you go back to family and friends who have pronounced you dead.? 

 

We know the love and forgiveness of God. We experience the power of the Holy Spirit – a power to live and to serve Christ’s way of life. We have a sense of belonging in a loving Christian community.   Our sense of mission is larger than any personal agenda.

However there are always costs.  The following of Christ demands personal sacrifices.  It often means unpopular stands on some issues, standing against such things as destroy love or works against love in our world.  We need to be working for peace and justice, for freedom of all people and toward the well being of all people.  It also means the loss of our motivation toward profit as our main goal in life. 

Detrich Bonhoeffer. was a German Lutheran theologian and minister. He also came to know the cost of discipleship.  He came to America for awhile while all the difficulties were happening in his homeland.

He went back to Germany eventually saying, “I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America.  I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of the Christian life in Germany after the war if I don’t share the trials of this time with my people….since coming on board ship my inner disruption about the future has disappeared”.

You could say that he “set his face” to go to Germany where he was to be imprisoned and eventually executed for his beliefs and his opposition to Hitler. 

NOW is always the time to decide about our life.  It has always been impressive in the Old Testament when the Israelites came to a critical time in their life and one of their leaders would put a decision before the people to “choose today whom you will serve. 

This is always the choice before us as followers of Christ. That is the choice in all the decisions we face day by day. When we choose the giving, loving, caring way of Christ, it is always a CHOICE TO LIVE, whatever the cost, but to the greater glory of God.

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