The Roominess of God's Grace

Missed our Hymn Sing and reflections this past Sunday? Here's what Rev. Blair Setnor had to say about her favorite hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

"I have two children. Geoffrey, 3 years old and Wes, 3 months old. Every night our bedtime routine includes singing.  

When Geoffrey was an infant, before he could request his own songs, I would sing the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” to him. I now sing it to baby Wes. Wes usually smiles at me and tries to stick his hands in my mouth as I sing. I’m not sure what that says about my singing, but I love this hymn, and I’ll continue to sing least until he can request otherwise.

"Come, Thou Fount" is a hymn about grace. And grace is the reason I ascribe to Methodist theology. Grace above all things. Grace, as Pastor Alice describes to our confirmands each year, is God’s unconditional love for us. God’s grace, God’s unconditional love, relentlessly pursues us. We can do nothing to earn it. We can do nothing to make it go away.  

If there ever was a season of life that I needed grace, it is now in this season of parenting young children. I find that my emotions can range from boiling rage, to hysterical laughter, to overwhelming joy and love within seconds. I am constantly fighting feelings of inadequacy and guilt. From food choices to schools, bedtimes to screen time…am I ruining my child?

When I am at my best, I am patient and kind with my children, I prepare well balanced meals, and get them enough sleep to make them pleasant and relatively compliant… (ha!) But I rarely get the sleep I need or the countless other things that would make me a better parent. So...grace.

I need God’s grace to wrap me up when life seems overwhelming.  

I need to extend God's grace to my screaming child.

And I need to give myself a little grace, too.

The overarching theme of this hymn is recognizing a God who was and will be present in all things, especially in times of despair.  

In the first stanza we sing, “tune my heart to sing thy grace.” I love this image of God “tuning” our hearts. To tune means to adjust to the correct pitch, so in “tuning” our hearts, we adjust ourselves to God. When our hearts are in tune with God, we more readily recognize and experience God’s grace, God’s streams of mercy, that never cease...God’s redeeming love.

The second stanza begins, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.” This is inspired by the story of Samuel. Samuel builds an altar or Ebenezer because he has seen God at work. He uses this stone to literally mark and commemorate all that God has done. It is a physical reminder that our God is a sure source of help, safety, and security.  

“Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.” This theme of wandering continues in the final stanza and in my favorite line, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” 

Robert Robinson, the author of this hymn, lived a debaucherous life in the mid 1700s. He is said to have been convicted of his sinful ways when he and his young friends were mocking a fortune teller. As they poured her drinks they demanded their fortunes. She pointed at him and said, “You will live to see your children and your grandchildren.” This touched a tender spot in his heart and he decided that if he was going to live long enough to see his grandchildren, he should maybe start living differently.  

Immediately after, under the guise of heckling the pastor, Robinson convinced his friends to join him watch George Whitefield preach. He “wandered” for three years after hearing this sermon before he accepted God’s gift of grace. Then at the age of 20 he changed his life to pursue a call to preach.

Whatever stage and season of life you are in…whether you are grieving, resentful, or overwhelmed; whether you are a stranger, or wandering, God’s grace is reaching out to you. And it creates room for you to give yourself, and others grace, too."