STLT#340, Though Gathered Here to Celebrate


I have a service I love to do called “Holey, Holy, Wholly” about the myth of wholeness and the grace of brokenness as a truer path to healing. It is one of those deeply pastoral services that fulfills the call to ‘comfort the afflicted’ – because we can’t always just ‘afflict the comfortable.’ I have a few hymns I like to do with this service, but some of my choices are, sadly, not ideal – they fall into that category of ‘general hymns, good for any occasion’. In other words, our hymnals aren’t teeming with pastoral hymns.

Except, surprise surprise, this hymn bubbles up – because using the first line as the title is rather misleading. How many of us have flipped past it, thinking it’s another “yay, we’re together” hymn? I sure have.

But this hymn – much like Jeanne Gagne’s “In My Quiet Sorrow,” which we’ll get to in late November – speaks to the person who comes to church for solace that day, not for celebration. It gives voice to the need to be seen and held in all of our brokenness and heartache. It reminds us that this too is part of life, and it shouldn’t be hidden away but rather held in community.

Though gathered here to celebrate,
my spirit’s burning low;
instead of serving, now I wait,
the breath of worship’s not too late,
breathe, let the embers glow.

There have been losses on the way;
a parent, partner, friend.
At times I need to grieve and say,
“I have enough to bear today,
be near and help me mend.”

The stillness strips the masks away,
exposes lonely hearts;
self-pity must not have its way;
I’ll live my life from day to day,
and now the healing starts.

I hate that it took until now for me to find this hymn – set to a lovely tune by Fred Wooden, which we last sang in January when one of my cats went in for surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his intestine (he’s fine now; his only problems now are living with my other cat again, and hairballs).

This hymn has gotten inside me. I hadn’t expected to be so deeply moved this morning – but I suppose that’s the grace of this or any spiritual practice.



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