Who can sound the depths of sorrow
in the Father heart of God
Source: Singing the Faith: 723
Words: Graham Kendrick
Music: Graham Kendrick arr Paul Leddington Wright
Graham Kendrick’s hymn echoes the tone of the Hebrew prophets at their most damning, or of Jesus at his most critical. It is a hymn that holds up our failings, as individuals and as a society, and sets them against the backdrop of God’s powerful and eternal compassion.
“Each light that we’ve extinguished / has brought darkness to our land”, Kendrick writes (in words similar to those of another hymn addressing similar themes: “Great is the darkness that covers the earth, / oppression, injustice and pain”, StF 405). We have made our world dark by our treatment of others and by worshipping “other gods” (which ones might he mean?). In the light of God’s love for the weak and helpless (v.3), how will we respond? Verse 4 calls on God to “shake us into action” and to “melt our hearts of stone”. We must be transformed; and we need God’s help to make that radical change.
One StF user, Mary, has noted the difference between this four-verse version of Graham Kendrick’s hymn and other versions. She asks how the text makes real sense unless the final verse is included – “surely the culmination of the whole song”:
Who can sound the depths of mercy
in the Father heart of God?
For there is a Man of sorrows
who for sinners shed His blood.
He can heal the wounds of nations,
He can wash the guilty clean;
because of Jesus, because of Jesus,
have mercy Lord!
There are those who have difficulty with some of the theology behind the idea of Jesus’ blood shed for sinners. Here, however, the question is perhaps one of balance. Within the context of this hymn, arguably this verse, omitted by the compilers of Singing the Faith, shifts the emphasis too far away from our need for transformation and the requirement that, with God’s help and example, we do something about the injustices and pain we see around us.