You showed us mercy
when we were in darkness
Source: Singing the Faith: 488
Words: Ian Worsfold
Music: Ian Worsfold arr Nicola Morrison, Carol Clayton
Ideas for use
Take time to recall stories in the Gospels that illustrate the lines in verse 2 – stories about when Jesus:
- showed compassion when someone seemed to be in a helpless situation
- freed an individual from the chains of despair or an unhealthy or restrictive lifestyle
- forgave someone whose sin seemed obvious to others or themselves
You may wish to invite individuals to offer their own testimonies of experiencing God’s mercy, freedom or forgiveness in difficult times. If so, consider singing the hymn’s first two verses with refrain before individuals speak; and the final verse, with its air of rediscovered confidence, afterwards.
Though Ian Worsfold says that he is drawn to writing hymns in a contemporary idiom, even he was surprised to find that he’d written a tune with more than a hint of Country and Western about it. Country and Western music, he says, is not really his thing at all.
He wrote the hymn as part of musical revue based on the Beatitudes, (Matthew 5: 3–12; also Luke 6: 20–22), which was devised as a way of bringing three circuits together in East Anglia to form the East Norfolk Circuit. Other material from that revue came from a setting of the words of the Methodist communion service (Ordinary Seasons 1st Service) while he was working for a Masters in Music and Liturgy. At the time, he was serving as a probationer minister in Great Yarmouth in East Norfolk and his aim was to explore the notion of sung liturgy, and to present it in a way to which Methodists – for whom formal liturgy is not always a natural way of worshipping – might respond positively. (See Ian’s settings of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God…), StF 767, and the Lord’s Prayer, StF 763.)
While not quoting the Beatitudes directly, “You showed us mercy” echoes their teachings by speaking of a saving God seen in the example of Jesus’ life and ministry. The upside-down-ness of the Beatitudes (in which those who are shy, humble, persecuted and hungry are promised the rewards of God’s loving care) is seen here in the compassion, healing and hope offered by Jesus to those who felt helplessness, pain, or despair (v2).
Moreover, this is not just a case of looking back to how Jesus was with those he met and lived amongst; his life reminds us of how God always is: encouraging us with “boldness when we are uncertain… strength when we are weak… and comfort when we need security”.
In its refrain, “You are our sun in the morning, our moon in the night…”, this hymn might be seen as a natural partner to Beyond these walls of worship (StF 547) Ian’s collaboration with Paul Wood, which asks how we may be a “living sacrifice” in our everyday lives. The strength to be so, replies this hymn, lies in remembering the never-failing presence of God on whom we depend.
Ian Worsfold is a Methodist minister, serving currently as the Free Church chaplain at City University, London. Known to many as a co-leader of worship at Methodist Conference for a number of years, Ian trained as a musician before responding to a calling to ordained ministry. He was a member of the Singing the Faith music group and one of the prime movers behind the production of the Singing the Faith piano accompaniment CDs. For StF+, Ian has written a short guide to hymn metre: Hymn metre – how it works.
Together with his regular writing partner, Paul Wood, Ian talks about what motivates his hymn writing and worship leading in Faith sung and shared.