The singing of this beloved hymn is often accompanied with tears. Its background story tells why: John Fawcett, a rural pastor in 18th century England, realized the mutual love between his congregation, his wife and himself. Instead of leaving for a better-paying position in London, he changed his mind at the last minute—after his farewell sermon—and chose to stay with this small, struggling church for another 54 years! He wrote the hymn to express the sentiments that welled up in his heart.
Heartfelt ties may have become thin and vulnerable in these times. What holds us together seems under assault by forces beyond our control. For over a year, a worldwide epidemic has pulled us back into the isolation of our homes. Loneliness has steadily increased, relationships have frayed and friendships have morphed into virtuality. Trust, fellowship, social intelligence and courage may have taken a hit. Some institutions and enterprises have been weakened in their ability to draw people together.
But this time-honored hymn encourages us to bless these ties. The first step in that process is to name those bonds. What comes to mind: phone calls, cards and letters, e-mails, shared experiences (however minimal), worship services, teleconferencing technologies and well-being checks. At any of these places of contact, we bless the ties with honesty, integrity, reinvigorated memories, gratitude and empathy. We ask caring questions and listen deeply to the answers. We pray together. We speak forgiveness about the past and describe together our hopes for the future. We mourn and rejoice intimately. We seek out those whom we have forgotten or lost along our life’s journey. We love as fiercely as we are loved. We thank God for every life-giving relationship.
Today. resolve to strengthen the ties of love that bind you to others. Bless them all….
BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
The unity of heart and mind is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.
From sorrow, toil and pain, and sin we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity.
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