Blest Be the Tie (Artful Devotion)

Tooker, George_Embrace of Peace II
George Tooker (American, 1920–2011), Embrace of Peace II, 1988. Egg tempera on gesso panel, 18 × 30 in. Private collection.

Let brotherly love continue.

—Hebrews 13:1

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SONG: “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” | Words by John Fawcett, 1782 | Music by Johann G. Nageli, 1828; arr. Lowell Mason, 1845 | Performed by Zero8, on Mes très chers frères (“My dearest brothers”) (2017)

While looking online and on Spotify for the best available recording of this classic, I decided on the a cappella rendition by Zero8, a Stockholm-based male choir. But my favorite solo rendition is, ironically, from this year’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season One (Original Television Soundtrack). Though I don’t endorse the show, Jaz Sinclair’s vocal performance in episode 8 is gorgeous. (Her character sings the hymn during a funeral scene.) I also came across a retuned version by Sara Groves from her 2013 album The Collection, which is quite lovely, though I remain attached to the original tune.

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The “embrace of peace” in the title of the above George Tooker painting refers to a liturgical element in many Christian worship services in which congregants bless one another in the name of Christ. Depending on the church culture, this can be done with a handshake, a hug, or in some cultures, a kiss. The ritual is commonly referred to as the “passing of the peace” and, more than a mere greeting, is a significant gesture of reconciliation, unity, and love. Here’s a variation by Tooker on the same theme:

Tooker, George_An Embrace of Peace
George Tooker (American, 1920–2011), An Embrace of Peace, 1986. Egg tempera on gesso panel, 16 × 26 in.

This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 17, cycle C, click here.

When Brothers Dwell in Unity (Artful Devotion)

All of Mankind by William Walker
North facade of the former Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, with mural by William Walker, 1972. (The mural was painted over in 2015.) Photo: Gabriel X. Michael/Chicago Patterns.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

—Psalm 133

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SONG: “Together (Psalm 133)” by James Zeller | Performed by David Potter, on The Good Life by the Psalter Project (2017)

All of Mankind by William Walker
William Walker (American, 1927–2011), All of Mankind mural detail, 1972 (now lost). Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group.
All of Mankind by William Walker
William Walker (American, 1927–2011), All of Mankind mural detail, 1972 (now lost). Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group.

For more info on Walker’s mural, see my review of Painting the Gospel.

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This weekend we witnessed how bad and destructive it is when brothers dwell in disunity. For congregations seeking resources for responding prayerfully to the racist attack carried out in Charlottesville, Virginia, Rich Villodas has written a litany:

Leader: Lord Jesus, your Kingdom is good news for a world caught in racial hostility. We ask that you would give us grace for the deep challenges facing our country.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we confess our anger, our deep sadness, and our collective sense of weakness to see this world healed through our own strength.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we honestly confess that our country has a long history of racial oppression, that racism has been a strategy of evil powers and principalities.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we confess that the gospel is good news for the oppressed and the oppressor. Both are raised up. Both are liberated, but in different ways. The oppressed are raised up from the harsh burden of inferiority. The oppressor from the destructive illusion of superiority.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we confess that the gospel is your power to form a new people not identified by dominance and superiority, but by unity in the Spirit.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we ask that you would help us name our part in this country’s story of racial oppression and hostility. Whether we have sinned against others by seeing them as inferior, or whether we have been silent in the face of evil. Forgive us of our sin.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we pray for our enemies. For those who have allowed Satanic powers to work through them. Grant them deliverance through your mighty power.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we ask that you would form us to be us peacemakers. May we be people who speak the truth in love as we work for a reconciled world.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.

 

Leader: Lord, we commit our lives to you, believing that you are working in the world in spite of destructive powers and principalities. Bring healing to those who are hurt, peace to those who are anxious, and love to those who are fearful. We wait for you, O Lord. Make haste to help us.

 

Congregation: O Lord, only you can make all things new.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 15, cycle A, click here.