Who can sound the depths of sorrow? (StF 723)

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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
Metre: Irregular
Verses: 4

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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.

Categories: Irregular, Justice and Peace, Kendrick, Graham (auth), Kendrick, Graham (comp), Wright, Paul Leddington.

2 Responses to Who can sound the depths of sorrow? (StF 723)

  1. Peter Millward says:

    I have just happened on this thread and agree with Richard Towle’s comment, though I assume that Graham Kendrick gave permission for the hymn to be published in the truncated version as he appears to retain copyright.
    As to the “balance” referred to in the original “More information”, don’t we need to remember that in the end it is only Jesus who can heal and make clean? He may use any of us as instruments but whatever we do, unless he does the work, we are only saying “Lord, Lord”. Isn’t the sentence “… with God’s help and example, we do …” the wrong way round? It is God who “does” using us as his instruments.

  2. Richard Towle says:

    I must agree with the “Mary” mentioned above, the compilers of Singing the Faith should never have omitted this verse which rounds off the song perfectly. I always reinsert it when choosing this hymn.
    I cringed at the note above that said that “There are those who have difficulty with some of the theology behind the idea of Jesus’ blood shed for sinners”. Surely this is what the Gospel is all about, and what the Bible teaches. Isn’t this good biblical Wesleyan theology? What has happened to Methodism that not just this hymn but others in Singing the Faith (including the classic “Just as I am”) have had Jesus’ blood removed? Perhaps the next edition of the service book will have communion without the wine!
    Rev Richard Towle.

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