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The Sermon that Rhymed

Text (Psalm 30:12) That my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. (New International Version)

Thought starters
I brought a Hymnal with me today. We have already used it this morning. I wanted you to take a closer look at it.

Most of these songs rhyme. Did you know that? Let’s practice some words that rhyme. How about the word "sing?" How about "day?" There is sand in the land. That rhymes. Do you think it is hard to write a song? It sometimes is a poem put to music.

I want to tell you a story about a minister who was writing a special sermon but it ended up rhyming.

Rev. Daniel Crane Roberts was writing a sermon for a special Fourth of July service celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the United States in 1876, 128 years ago. He was the pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Brandon, Vermont. The celebration that Sunday included a picnic, fireworks, band concerts and parades. The people were wearing Red, White, and Blue. Does that sound like today?

As Rev. Roberts wrote down his sermon he noticed a phrase and decided to write it into a poem. He was so pleased with his poem he quickly found some music to go with it and arranged for this part of the sermon to be sung at the July 4th service.

His congregation liked the song so much they added it to their Hymnal. When he left to go to another church in Concord, New Hampshire that church liked it so they added it to their Hymnal.

That would have been it for the song except in 1891 the American Episcopal Church decided it was time for a new Hymnal for all their churches. Rev. Roberts sent it in not expecting anything. He didn’t even tell them he wrote it. Not only did the American Episcopal Church put it in their Hymnal. Most other churches put it in theirs too. It was chosen "The National Hymn" and put with new music in 1891 to celebrate another 100-year anniversary "The United States Constitution."

Did Rev. Roberts ever think his sermon would become "The National Hymn?" No, he wrote it not for fame, just to express his feeling about God and his country. The song we sang (will sing) this morning, "God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand" is having its 128th birthday today!

Prayer-Dear God, thank you for special poems, for music put with the words, and for voices to sing them in praise to you. Amen

Hymn-"God of Our Fathers" Daniel Crane Roberts

Prop-This story is from Ace Collins’ book, Stories behind the Hymns that inspire America. Zondervan

by William Bode

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  1. Robert says:

    Thanks for the interesting account of the writing of “God of Our Fathers.” (Today, as I write, is the 103rd anniversary of Daniel Roberts’ death.) If you enjoy reading about our hymns and their authors, I invite you to check out my daily blog on the subject, Wordwise Hymns.

    And if you’ll excuse a brief “commercial:” If you do not have a good book on the subject of our Christmas carols, I encourage you to take a look at my own, Discovering the Songs of Christmas. In it, I discuss the history and meaning of 63 carols and Christmas hymns. The book is available through Amazon, or directly from Jebaire Publishing. (Might make a great gift too!)

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