The phrase “for the living of these days” originated in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s beloved hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory,” which he penned in 1930. Here is verse 2:
Lo! The hosts of evil round us scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways! Fears and doubts too long have bound us, free our hearts to work and praise. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days, for the living of these days.
Fosdick was the senior pastor of the famed Riverside Church in the City of New York, a beacon of progressive Christianity throughout the twentieth century and even still today. Speaking out against the great fundamentalist take-over of the 1920s, the Vietnam War and hosting in the pulpit notable figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson among many others like Barbara Brown Taylor, Traci Robinson, and Barbara Lundblad, Riverside’s steeple not only stands tall against the NYC skyline, but so does her reputation of social justice and extravagant love.
Fosdick knew like the rest of us that where we have been bound by fear and doubt, our creativity suffers. Do you know this in your own heartaches and pains of life? When depression is real or anxiety is present even reading a book or picking out soup at the grocery store can feel like a monumental task.
It is why I love the line, “Free our hearts to work and praise.” When we sing this, it is like we are shouting out to God from the middle of life’s realities, “Give us creativity. Give us passion for good. Give us opportunity to use our gifts and resources for the betterment of our common humanity. Give us a chance to support the dignity of all your people. Help us thrive, even in the face of adversity. We know this is going to take wisdom and courage because when we are threatened it is instinctual to fight or freeze or take flight. But in this moment, of this day, as we choose abundant life, may the Spirit continue to guide us and inspire us…free our hearts to work and praise.”
To sing this hymn with the Riverside Church in her magnificent sanctuary is sublime. Anything becomes possible with the swell of the organ and the energy of the lifted voices. Even the wisdom and courage necessary for the living of these days.
We need wisdom and courage this week as we prepare to hear the Attorney General’s report about the Breonna Taylor investigation. We need ongoing wisdom and courage in the persistence of COVID-19. We must rally in ourselves as children of God and in our communities this wisdom and courage so that indeed our hearts might continue to be free, our minds thinking of liberation, and our bodies centered on holy ground.
Highland, may our living these days bring us closer to one another despite social distancing, closer to those who are marginalized despite our privilege, and closer to God, the One who frees our hearts, despite our fears which long have bound us. Blessings upon your week!