I ran out of room yesterday, so I’ll continue this today. I want to talk about Lutheran Service Book #782 Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings. We have sung whole or parts of this hymn 9 times in the last three years. The text has a special connection to St. Mark. It was written by Gregory Wismar who is a former pastor of St. Mark many years ago. Pastor Wismar was born in 1946, but has apparently retired from active ministry at this time. The tune is Holy Manna or Columbian Harmony. It is one of the prettier tunes having a very American feel. Some may say Scottish, which gets you to Appalachia. You can hear the bagpipes, fiddles and fog off the mountains. The combination of text and tune have a more contemporary feel as it is a hymn that contains a chorus or refrain.
One of the reasons that this hymn has been used more often is because we have used it in a liturgical spot. There are these places in the service where people are walking or things need to be done. For example after the offering is taken the ushers walk from back to front to bring it up. The offertory is a musical piece that puts words and music to the action. We are giving our offerings. And that offertory is something we have used this hymn for. Looking at verse 1 we acknowledge that we have received blessing each day and are offering our praise and thanks. The refrain turns from that offering to our response to our neighbor – we share the blessings to bring glory to the name.
|1)Gracious God, You send great blessings
New each morning all our days.
For Your mercies never ending,
For your love we offer praise.
|2) By Your Word You formed creation
Filled with creatures large and small;
As we tend that endless treasure
May our care encircle all.
|3)In His early life, our Savior
Knew the care of faithful friends;
May our deeds of dedication
Offer love that never ends.
|4)Heav’n-ly Father, may our caring
Bear the imprint of Your grace;
With the Son and Holy Spirit,
Praise be Yours in ev’ry place!
Lord, we pray that we, Your people
Who Your gifts unnumbered claim,
Through the sharing of Your blessings
May bring glory to Your name.
But this hymn is not just an offertory. It stands in its own right. All the best hymns tell a story. In the merging of melody and text they create a feeling and tell it out. The first stanza combined with the music invokes the feeling. And this hymn is aspirational. We know we receive great blessings. We pray here that we remain thankful at all times and learn to share them with our neighbor.
Why is that important? Stanza 2 – God created all things and placed us in them to care for them. The original intent of creation. Stanza 3 – Jesus came to care for us, and while he was here he received the blessings God gave him with thanks: parents, friends, fish and loaves, even the bad stuff like when Lazarus died Jesus gave thanks for the blessings (John 11:41-42). Our purpose and great example is to be thankful and share the blessings.
Stanza 4 closes with a doxology. We know we cannot do that without God’s involvement in our lives. So we ask that our lives bear the imprint of His grace – Father, Son and Spirit in every place.
This Sunday we use Stanza 1 for the offertory and stanza 4 for the post communion piece of music. While the pastor is putting away one of the greatest gifts, the congregation asks for that gift of grace to continue in our lives. We have claimed the body and blood. Let us share that blessing to the glory of your name.