The season between Epiphany Sunday (6 Jan) and Ash Wednesday (6 March) is called “Ordinary Time”. The word “ordinary” connotes the ordinal numbers used to designate the Sundays: for example, first, second, third Sunday after Epiphany. The readings assigned at this time would include: the presentation of Jesus at the temple, the baptism of Jesus and stories of Jesus’ ministry.1
In his ministry, Jesus performed miracles, healed the sick and taught in parables. He defended the poor, the marginalised and the needy. He also confronted the leaders in Jerusalem, but at the same time he exercised servant leadership. His ministry is one we ought to follow and emulate.
The hymn “God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian” addresses the people in ministry—both clergy and lay.
The hymn is dense biblically and theologically. Each stanza has eight lines. The first four lines describe the attributes of each Person in the Trinity—God the Spirit, Christ our Saviour (Son), and God our Creator (Father); the next four lines is a prayer.
The poet explains that the hymn begins with God the Spirit rather than God the Creator because traditional prayers and hymns for ordination do so. God the Spirit is then referred as the “wind-sped flame” (Acts 2:1–4), “hovering dove” which alludes to the Baptism of Christ (Matt 3:14–17) and “breath of life” (Gen 2:7).2
The second stanza describes Christ our Saviour as sovereign, shepherd (John 10:14), “word made flesh” (John 1:14), teacher (Matt 7:29, Mark 6:34, John 7:14), healer (Mark 1:41, Luke 8:54) and suffering servant (alludes to Isaiah 53).
The third stanza describes God the Creator who is our life giver and fount of wisdom (Prov 2:1–9). He is God who knows our strengths and weaknesses. The final stanza brings together the three Persons of the Triune God.
Serving in ministry is not an easy task. The attributes of God explained in this hymn open our eyes and our minds that the God we serve is beyond our understanding. But His greatness teaches us to humble ourselves us as He calls us to play a role in His kingdom.
The prayers in the hymn are a petition that we become bold apostles; that we learn to live in a shepherd’s care; be courageous and compassionate; that we always proclaim the fullness of God’s image; that our various ministries be united in glorifying God’s name. These prayers give us affirmation and security that the grace of God will be with us.
May this hymn encourage and strengthen us as we follow Jesus Christ whose ministry we seek to emulate.
God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian (The United Methodist Hymnal, #648)
God the Spirit, guide and guardian,
wind-sped flame and hovering dove,
breath of life and voice of prophets,
sign of blessing, power of love:
give to those who lead your people
fresh anointing of your grace;
send them forth as bold apostles
to your church in every place.
Christ our Savior, sovereign, shepherd,
Word made flesh, Love crucified,
teacher, healer, suffering servant,
friend of sinners, foe of pride:
in your tending may all pastors
learn and live a shepherd’s care;
grant them courage and compassion
shown through word and deed and prayer.
Great Creator, life-bestower,
truth beyond all thought’s recall,
fount of wisdom, womb of mercy,
giving and forgiving all:
as you know our strength and weakness,
so may those the church exalts
oversee its life steadfastly,
yet not overlook its faults.
Triune God, mysterious being,
undivided and diverse,
deeper than our minds can fathom,
greater than our creeds rehearse:
help us in our varied callings
your full image to proclaim,
that our ministries uniting
may give glory to your name.
Words: Carl P Daw, Jr., 1987
Music: HYFRYDOL, Rowland Prichard, 1844
1 The readings are taken from the Lectionary—a collection of scripture readings for worship appointed for each day of the Church Calendar.
2 Carlton Young, ed. Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993), 373.
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.
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