God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale

Sep 2019    

The beauty of God’s creation is beyond human comprehension. But with our senses, we can see, feel, smell, hear and even taste the goodness of nature—this what the Lord our Maker has given us to enjoy. How can we not sing about this gift?

There are a few hymns about creation in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH). One that is unique both in text and tune is “God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale” (UMH 122),

Michael Hawn points to the lack of punctuation and rhyme in the text of the hymn, and opines that “to the singer this creates a sense of openness—a text that is not bound by the conventional patterns of poetry”.1

Jaroslav J. Vajda wrote the text to the hymn in 1983 with his insight that we, as creatures and as children of God, ought to respond to our creator with love as an expression of gratitude.2

The hymn has six stanzas. Each begins with three lines that describe who God is. These are followed by two rhetorical questions, each asking how the creature should respond.

The first stanza presents the wonder and beauty of nature where the creature’s response is to praise. The second talks about natural calamities.

The third stanza brings in hope symbolised by the rainbow and grace symbolised by the grave. The creature’s response is thanksgiving. The fourth stanza speaks of humanity that is not perfect. The creature’s response is to take care of life. The fifth stanza further notes the

challenges that the creature may face but, no matter what, the response is love and peace. The question is, how? How are all these responses expressed?  How do we care, or say love and peace? How do we say “home”?

In the final stanza, God is depicted as loving and timeless. It is interesting to note that the creature is now a child. While we are creatures enjoying the wonders of this creation, we are also God’s children, loved by Him. Our response then comes with how we understand this image of God in us and how we are to live that in the creation we enjoy.

God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale (UMH 122)

God of the sparrow
God of the whale
God of the whirling stars
How does the creature say Awe
How does the creature say Praise

God of the earthquake
God of the storm
God of the trumpet blast
How does the creature cry Woe
How does the creature cry Save

God of the rainbow
God of the cross
God of the empty grave
How does the creature say Grace
How does the creature say Thanks

God of the hungry
God of the sick
God of the prodigal
How does the creature say Care
How does the creature say Life

God of the neighbour
God of the foe
God of the pruning hook
How does the creature say Love
How does the creature say Peace

God of the ages
God near at hand
God of the loving heart
How do your children say Joy
How do your children say Home

Words: Jaroslav J. Vajda, 1983

Music: Carl F. Schalk

1 C. Michael Hawn, “History of Hymns: ‘God of the Sparrow’,” Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-god-of-the-sparrow.

2 Carlton Young, ed., Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 371.

Judith Laoyan-Mosomos is the Director for Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

Picture by Syed F Abbas/Bigstock.com


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