Posted by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker text© 2011 on Jan 27th, 2012
Greetings! And a BRAND NEW DAY to all of our BlogNog Friends,
God’s ever-ready forgiveness makes this a brand new day of bright hope, regardless of the mountains we must climb and valleys we must forge in our lives. “For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” (Psalms 86:5)
This week, my thoughts on forgiveness reminded me of my appreciation for the great Christian hymn writers – that most honorable band of God’s servants who gave their best talents to worship and song.
However, these beloved songwriters through the ages could never have foreseen that hiding in our hymnals is a neglected little orphan called the “third verse.” (I’m speaking from many years experience as an observant guest speaker in various Christian denominations and fellowships.) This little “third-verse orphan” phenomenon may just be an American habit to save time. I don’t know, so perhaps our overseas reader-friends can advise us on this matter.
Anyway, each time I heard the song leader say, “We’ll now sing the first, second and last stanza of…. (insert 4-verse hymn of your choice here),” I smiled to myself and wondered again whatever happened to the third verse? And this is why my thoughts on hymn-writers and forgiveness arose.
Imagine this – Charles Wesley (Oxford scholar and evangelist 1707-1788) wrote over 9,000 hymns – that’s a possible 9,000 third verses left out! The Christmas favorite Hark! the Herald Angels Sing escaped the third verse neglect. Charles safeguarded it by writing only three verses! (I’m sure angels never leave the third verse out…)
Then, there’s the almost never heard of Thomas Ken (1637-1711), also an English Oxford scholar and chaplain to King Charles II, who penned the world-renowned Doxology – “Praise God from Whom all Blessings flow….” But, believe it or not – that one verse is actually the last verse of his ten-stanza hymn! Nine verses left out! But then, if we sang all ten verses, that would most likely make us late for the potluck lunch after the service.
From America, we have the beloved jewel, Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) who, though blinded from childbirth, still blessed the world with over 8,000 hymns of praise. Her tombstone carries the title of one of her most loved hymns: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine. How sad to leave out any of Fanny’s third verses.
It’s heartwarming that many other hymn writers have given us their inspired songs. John Newton (1725-1807), gave us “Amazing Grace. Isaac Watts (1674–1748), composed over 600 hymns and also wrote the first children’s hymnal. He is remembered for the lilting “Joy to the World” Christmas carol.
Now, where do my thoughts on forgiveness and hymn writers take us to? The answer lies just ahead. Right now, I’ll pop in the Christian Mother Goose rhyme Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whose theme is forgiveness.
“Tweedledum and Tweedledee” are names best known as the rather comical twins in author Lewis Carroll’s book, Through the Looking Glass (a sequel to Alice in Wonderland). However, Tweedledum and Tweedledee as names, go back to 1725 A.D., stemming from a satirical epigram on quarrels, written by poet John Byrom.
This brings us to the quarrel in our rhyme, and a small boy’s grasp of the solution. A grandmother told me the following story: Her five-year-old grandson, Eric, had learned the Christian Mother Goose version of “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.” On a day when her patience was thin, she harshly scolded Eric for asking for help, then was immediately smitten in her conscience. Quickly, she asked for his forgiveness, and the little boy warmly replied, “I’ll forgive you, Grandma, in a hurry!”
Out of the mouths of babes, indeed, comes such understanding. It’s “in a hurry” that we need to forgive those who have hurt us. Too many times we wait for the proverbial “pound of flesh” before offering forgiveness. Although God wisely reminds us in Ephesians 4:26 to “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (I must confess I’ve had some sleepless nights with that verse, not able to rest until I got up and asked for forgiveness of my “forgive you in a hurry” husband Dale.)
Notwithstanding, I remember once, while checking out of a small gift shop, noticing someone’s “insufficient funds” check clearly posted at the cash register for everyone to see. Upon closer inspection, I realized I knew the family (whose name was on that check) and the hardships they were enduring. I offered to pay more than the check’s modest amount if the storekeeper would just take it down. However, the manager refused saying the check was posted as an example to any other potential bad check writers. In that instant, the thought occurred to me to put down the money to cover the overdraft while singing Amazing Grace – then snatch the check and run!
I never enjoyed shopping there again! Uh, Oh – there goes another Ephesians 4:26 reminder. They seem to come around quite often, don’t they?
Some years ago, we received a sweet letter from Mickey Rooney, of the “Andy Hardy” movie series. He wrote how much he appreciated sharing God’s Words with children through the Christian Mother Goose books. Later, we heard Mickey say in an interview, “The only power a man really has is the power of forgiveness.” How true – now, if we would only exercise that power more often with strangers, friends and our loved ones!
The verse at the start of this blog states that “God is READY to forgive!” Always ready! What a compassionate, ever-loving God we have. What a need this whole world has for forgiveness – for “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And therein lies the essence of God’s forgiveness: God is ready to forgive us – from the worst of us to the best of us – because The Lord Jesus has paid our penalty with His blood, and the Holy Judge of all the world is satisfied and well pleased with Him. All forgiveness is in The Lord Jesus Christ alone. Even as Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Now, back to our discussion of that “orphaned” third verse. In the Christian Mother Goose Big Book, I wrote a rhyme called I think God Likes Every Kind of Song. I covered 20 styles of praise songs including… Kneeling-down-devout songs / Stomp-along-and-shout songs / Concerts-by-the-batch songs / Can’t-sing-it-without songs and, yes…haha…Leave-the-third-verse-out songs!
Will all the great hymn writers be waiting in line in Heaven to demand we sing those thousands of unsung third verses? Will they tell us there’s now plenty of time in eternity to sing those “orphaned” verses? Should we pack our hymnals when we go? Or do we take refuge in Ephesians 4:32 to remind them why we are all there in the first place? Ah, yes…then we will all sing Amazing Grace together!
Cheerio for now,
Christian Mother Goose®
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