Lord, we turn to you for mercy
Source: Singing the Faith: 429
Words: Martin Leckebusch
Music: “Gott will ‘s machen” by Johann Steiner
Metre: 87.87. (Trochaic)
Ideas for use
This hymn serves as a sung prayer of confession. There are echoes here not only of the words of the prophet Hosea (see below) but perhaps, also (especially in verse 2), a traditional prayer of confession to be found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
“Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done… ”
Likewise, also from the Book of Common Prayer, the so-called “Prayer of Humble Access” has long been an accepted element of the Anglican and many Protestant Eucharistic liturgies. Though not reflecting a more modern sense that Holy Communion is a joyful feast (e.g. I come with joy, a child of God, StF 588), it does offer the emphasis on God’s mercy to be found in Martin’s hymn:
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy…”
Martin Leckebusch says that he wishes to be a “Biblical writer” (see Taking a broad approach – the hymn writing of Martin Leckebusch), and writes that “intelligent discipleship means applying unchanging truth to a changing world in a way which will genuinely honour God”. A number of his hymns in Singing the Faith draw upon the Old Testament prophets for inspiration: Micah (Show me how to stand for justice, StF 713); Isaiah (In an age of twisted values, StF 703); and in this hymn, Hosea.
The book of Hosea includes a biographical account of how the prophet divorces his wife after she is unfaithful to him. However, after her life has become one of increasing degradation, Hosea seeks her out, buys her out of effective slavery and re-marries her. For Hosea, this personal experience is taken as a parable of God’s love against the odds for the people of Israel – and, by extension, us. It provides the basis of the prophetic writings that follow.
Martin’s starting point is the final chapter of Hosea, which begins with the prophet’s demand: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.” The prophet teaches his hearers how to pray for mercy (which Martin paraphrases in verses 1 to 3) – and then presents God’s words of forgiveness:
I will heal their disloyalty;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily,
he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. (vv.4-6)