Hymns & Songs

Hymns and social holiness

Jun 2011    

All Who Love and Serve Your City
All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless.

In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”

For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.

Risen Lord! shall yet the city
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “ The Lord is there!”

Text: Eric Routley, 1966 (luke 19:41; Ezek. 48:35)

“ALL WHO LOVE AND SERVE YOUR CITY” (UMH 433) is an unfamiliar hymn which falls under the category Social Holiness, a section that that has 19 hymns (430 – 439) in the United Methodist Hymnal.

Let us look at this hymn from two perspectives. First the text and second, what constitutes Social Holiness?

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Routley alludes the first stanza to this scripture text. If we read further, Luke 19:41- 47 speaks of Jesus’ judgement against Israel for they did not recognise him. They rejected him.

If Jesus came to this city today, will he weep? What will he find us doing? Will he find us crying for peace and justice? Will he find us cursing? Will he find us blessing others? As Christians, we will always stand at the crossroads of “being in the world but not of the world”. How are we coping with this challenge?

The second stanza reminds us to seek the Lord in times of trouble. Put our trust in him for he will give us strength. As the psalmist tells us (Psalm 27), “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” This gives us a strong affirmation of God’s loving protection.

In the third stanza, Routley quotes Jesus saying “I must work while it is day” (John 9:4). Jesus knew that his ministerial days were numbered. He persevered and worked hard attending to the poor, the needy, the ostracised and the marginalised. What about us? Is it “wasted work and wasted play?” Jesus calls us to be socially concerned and participate in his work to advance his kingdom.

Part III of The Book of Discipline speaks of the Methodist Church’s Social Principles. These principles advocate obedience to the will of God and that each member of the church has a social responsibility in community life. Members of the church are summoned to be good stewards of God’s gifts and creation and serve others with God’s love.

“For all days are days of judgement …”

The fourth stanza tells us that if we are to obey and keep God’s commandments, we have to be consistent. We cannot choose to be good only when the situation serves our interest. We do not choose the people we serve. In this world full of evil forces, we are to listen to the LORD our God. Listen to his Word. It is difficult but we are called to emulate the life of Christ: “be a light to the world and salt of the earth”.

In the final stanza, Routley alludes to Ezekiel 48:35 “the distance all around will be 18000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on will be THE LORD IS THERE.” In the midst of this chaotic world, we call on Jesus to hasten his coming! We call him to come soon and pray that this city’s name be “The Lord is here!”

We call on Jesus to come today for he is our true hope! This does not mean we escape the present and fast-forward to the future. Dr Gordon Wong tells us in his book God Makes Sense that “the world we live in is harsh”. We do not hope to be spared but we hope that we have the strength to “confront the realities of life head on!” It is going to be tough but our Christian faith teaches us to cope with life in the real world.1 Dr Roland Chia explains that “true hope enables us to live in the present and never allows us to leave the present for the future. Although Christian hope comprises a vision of the future, the eschaton, it nurtures a unique spirituality that strives in humility to be adequate to the circumstances God has placed us in. is means that true hope can never inspire an escapist outlook … He who truly hopes will with resolve face the vicissitudes of life by simply continuing to live his life before God.”2

Our second task is to seek what Social Holiness means. John Wesley in his works wrote: “the gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection.”3 By this he meant that we are all part of a culture and a community. us we have our social responsibilities. We read that John Wesley has been immensely involved in social work – ministering to prisoners, orphans, widows, the illiterate, the unemployed: a work he called “works of mercy”.4 Social holiness therefore is to be socially aware, socially concerned and to actively participate in works pertaining to the poor, the sick, the aged, the hungry and those in need. It is for us now to pay attention to the needs of those around us. It is not a mandate that comes from John Wesley himself. It is a mandate from our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 25:35-40) that John Wesley preached and practised. While faith formation and personal growth is promoted in the Wesleyan tradition, outreach and mission for a better world is encouraged and witnessed.

Are the hymns in the Social Holiness category part of our congregation’s repertoire? Do we sing about our social responsibilities so that we are reminded about them? When we sing for the people in need, the voiceless, those we cannot reach out to, it is also an act of prayer. By doing so, we pray that it becomes a source of hope.


1 Gordon Wong, God Makes Sense Even When Life Doesn’t Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2008), p4.
2 Roland Chia, Hope for the World: The Christian Vision (England: Inter Varsity Press, 2006), p153.
3 John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 14 (Michigan: Zondervan Books, 1872), p.321
4 Daniel L. Burnett, In The Shadow of Aldersgate (Oregon: Cascade Books, 2006), p164-165.

Judith Mosomos is a Lecturer in Church Music at the Methodist School of Music.


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