"Blest Be the Tie"
Sunday - March 6th
Scripture to Read Today: Ephesians 4:1-6
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
Rev. John Fawcett (1739-1817) was a young preacher in the village of Wainsgate, about as remote as you could get in the English countryside. The Yorkshire area in Northern England was barren and cold. The people — goodhearted, hardworking, not highly educated — had next to nothing. They supplemented their pastor's meager stipend with wool, meat, and vegetables. The church had no parsonage for the young pastor and his family. Instead, Fawcett and his wife (along with their four children) moved from one family to another.
They lived a few months here and a few months there, no place to call their own. Most places they stayed caused them to suffer chilly drafts of the harsh winters, and host families only provided a basic porridge once or twice a day. It was not an easy life for the minister's family, but he became a shepherd knit to the hearts of his flock.
Living in poverty was nothing new to Fawcett. Orphaned at 12 years of age, he became an indentured servant at the age of 13, worked fourteen hours a day, and taught himself to read at night. At the age of 15, Fawcett came to Christ standing in an outdoor crowd of 20,000 gathered to hear a sermon by George Whitefield, "the marvel of the age." It was in that same service that Fawcett set his mind on becoming a preacher himself.
One day in 1772, after seven years of pastoring in Yorkshire, 33-year-old Fawcett got the call he hoped for during his days in the English countryside. He had established a reputation as a theologian, inspiring preacher, and caring shepherd. He was now wanted in London. London!
It seemed a dream come true, to move to lively London where his family's standard of living would vastly improve. They would live in their own home - the parish parsonage. The city had good schools, libraries, sophisticated music and art, churches with stained glass, and educated colleagues for deep conversation. Fawcett agonized over the tempting offer and finally said, "YES!"
The family packed up, climbed into a wagon, and waved to people who had come many miles to say goodbye. The scene was so wrenching, however, that Fawcett realized he couldn't leave. He turned the horses around, unpacked, and stayed in Yorkshire for another 45 years. Giving his entire ministry life of 54 years to the people of the Yorkshire region.
Out of his experience of choosing to stay in the village of Wainsgate, he wrote the most famous of his 160 hymns, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds." It became a favorite hymn for Christians facing separation, an affirmation that friendship and community are the actual measures of wealth.
I remember singing "Blest Be the Tie that Binds" throughout my childhood in my home church of Twin Branch Bible Church in Mishawaka, Indiana. When a family in our church was moving away, we often had a reception after a worship service in our Fellowship Hall to say goodbye to them. The reception would usually end with our church family forming a large circle, holding hands, and singing, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds." I remember those circles of love and farewell fondly.
Take the time to thank God for your part in His family!
What a joy we share because of the bond we have as part of Christ's family! Those bonds are precious and strong!
Blest Be the Tie that Binds
by John Fawcett, Published 1782
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again