The Hymns We Sing

The Hymns We Sing

Hymn #44
Like a Mother Who Has Borne Us
Author: Daniel Bechtel (b. 1932)

This text was first sung at the Dickinson College Chapel on September 28, 1986, as a solo by a colleague of the author. It incorporates numerous biblical allusions: Hosea 11:1-9; Matthew 22:37-40//Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46. It also seems to resonate with Psalm 131:2.

This text is organized around three motifs: context, crisis, and resolution. The context is established in the first two stanzas, where shared human experience of parents, both female and male, provides a means of grasping something of the nature of God as revealed through them. The third stanza deals with the crisis of wandering: away from God, away from faith, away from other people. Yet in spite of our behaviour, “God still calls us into life” (3.4). By the fourth stanza we have moved from using human experience as a lens for understanding God to our understanding of God as a model for how we relate to other human beings. When we act with generosity, support our neighbour, follow the ways of peace and justice, we sense God’s presence because we have patterned our lives on God’s own nature.

This text does not use rhyme because its alternative sense of structure comes from the anchoring provided by the final line in each stanza. All four of them are generated by a matrix that includes the following elements: “God” – “has” or “still” – “walk” or “call” – “us” – “life.” That combination of familiarity and variety offers a different way of achieving the coherence ordinarily supplied by rhyme.

-From Glory to God: A Companion by Carl P Daw, Jr.

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