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Monday, October 20, 2014

I love thy kingdom, Lord,
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.

I love thy church, O God.
Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.

Timothy Dwight’s “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”
(tune: St. Thomas)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord” was written in 1801 by Timothy Dwight, one of the great early American hymn writers and a descendent of the famous American preacher Jonathan Edwards. Dwight was a scholastic of the highest order—he graduated from Yale when he was seventeen (!) and later became President of Yale for twenty-two years. Yet for all of his accomplishments, Dwight was also a pastor through and through. During the early years of his career, he preached to troops during the Revolutionary War and inspired numerous students to pursue ministry. In this hymn, we see one of Dwight’s most powerful convictions at play: that the church is meant to reflect God’s kingdom both inside and out.

At first glance, the hymn text might seem a bit myopic—the words house, abode, and walls all lead our minds towards a physical structure. However, Dwight has something larger in mind. Paraphrasing numerous psalm texts, he goes on to paint a picture of the church as the body of Christ—called to participate in remaking and reshaping the world around us into God’s kingdom. This hymn is intended to point us far beyond the brick and mortar, outward beyond our walls. It is a call to build God’s kingdom through our heart and daily work, pausing in worship and communion with one another to be restored for the work that is ahead.

Dear Lord, challenge us as a church community to recreate the deep compassion and peace of God’s kingdom as best we can—not just within our own walls, but outside them as well. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Minister for Children and Families

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