This is another hymn I suspect many of us bypass because of the not-really-the-title title; it’s been honestly off-putting to me and I suspect others. But it is an intriguingly appropriate pairing with Nancy McDonald Ladd’s sermon from General Assembly last year. As Kenny Wiley reported in UU World,
McDonald Ladd’s sermon lamented the “fake fights we waste our time on,” like “what color to paint the church bathroom,” as others struggle against injustice. McDonald Ladd’s words repeatedly brought cheers and ovations from the crowd as she weaved together personal narrative, humor, and her vision for a Unitarian Universalism focused on “real struggles and real battles” and not “confined by the smallness of our loving.”
We struggle with this. We create our little fiefdoms, our ways of doing things, and woe betide the person who doesn’t follow our rules! I loved this sermon and refer to it often, as it (like the hymn) calls us back to our hearts, our call, and our faith. Here, McDonald Ladd knocks it out of the park (transcribed from the video):
“I am not one to speak against an honest fight; but we need to lean into the real fights of our age. We need to do the work before us, not let another 50 years pass before we ask again what in the world we have been doing all that time while the dream goes unrealized. We need to keep it real – and keeping it real means admitting what we are here for in the first place. In spite of what every congregational satisfaction survey says, we did not come here for the coffee, and we did not even come for the great music. We don’t even come from our excellent ministers. We don’t. We come because we have a deep, aching need for an encounter with the holy that crosses our borders and expands our hearts. We come to be a part of something so much larger than ourselves. And we cannot do that holy work together unless we are really willing to set aside our own need to win and reach out our hands and seek the deeper understanding that comes with difference.”
That’s so important now. We are seeing so much infighting – not just in congregations about fights that don’t matter, but also among active participants in the resistance in fights about the quality and commitment of each other. The second verse in the hymn really got to me here, because I am watching friends struggle to support each other because our individual fears and hurts seem harder to bear than the collective pain we experience. Can we see each other in the midst of this and have the time and patience and compassion to be present?
From the crush of wealth and power something broken in us
all waits the spirit’s silent hour pleading with a poignant call,
bind all my wounds again.
Even now our hearts are wary of the friend we need so much.
When I see the pain you carry, shall I, with a gentle touch,
bind all your wounds again?
When our love for one another makes our burdens light to bear,
find the sister and the brother, hungry for the feast we share;
bind all their wounds again.
Ev’ry time our spirits languish terrified to draw too near,
may we know each other’s anguish and, with love that casts out fear,
bind all our wounds again.
This song, with a really lovely tune I didn’t know, reminds us that we must lead with love.
(I did the binary language in the third verse and remembered this was written and published at a certain time before we understood gender as a spectrum. Since the lyricist, Kendyl Gibbons, is still an active minister, I bet she’d be amenable to a lyric shift.)