Forgive, Forgive Us, Holy God

"Give us this day the bread of peace, the hands to share a common good"

Music by Ron Klusmeier
Words by Shirley Erena Murray
Tune Name: TAUPO

Lyrics as Poetry

Forgive, forgive us, holy God!
Your children call on you to hear!
Our blood is on each other’s hands,
we die from hunger, lies and fear.Forgive us that our souls are numb
to scenes of terror, screams of pain;
that while we pray ‘Your kingdom come’
our world is still a battle plain.Forgive the minds no longer shocked
by homeless poor, by lives abused,
forgive us that the earth is stacked
with weapons waiting to be used.Forgive us that our household gods
are self and safety, private need,
forgive us all our fitful prayers,
the token gift, the token deed.Give us this day the bread of peace,
the hands to share a common good,
the hearts to ache for justice’ sake,
the will to stand where Jesus stood.

Words by
Shirley Erena MurrayCopyright © 1996 by Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, Illinois • USA

Comments About Song

Comment by
from her book
“Every Day in Your Spirit” (#10):

“Written while John, my husband, was in South Africa as an Ecumenical Peace Monitor at the elections there. While South Africa provided some good news, Bosnia and Rwanda offset this by escalating horror. The hymn expresses my feeling of numb helplessness.”

Every Day in Your Spirit
is published by:Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, IL USA

A Reflection by hymnwriter

I know what follows is a pretty free translation, but it is good to be reminded that Paul said, “I screw up pretty badly. The good I should do often does not get done, and my excuses are many. As for the evil things that I know distance me from God and from those around me, I seem to fall into them with frightening predictability.” (Romans 7:14-19).

It was a version of that which my father gave as advice to me before Joan and I were married, “Always remember, son, that there are days you can’t live with yourself, so don’t be surprised when there are days you can’t live with your partner.” It is good, and I believe essential that we remember that we are people who fall short of what God intended for us, and short of our own best aspirations or what President Abraham Lincoln referred to as our better angels. It is true individually and corporately. Individually and corporately we humans foul our own nests, compromise and undermine our best intentions and relationships. As many have remarked, “We keep doing the same stupid things while expecting different results.” Individuals, organizations and nations excel at making excuses, blaming others, and attempting to erase from history those things that are shameful.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about cheap grace – and the human desire to cash in on God’s generosity, compassion and forgiveness without acknowledging harm done and without seeking pathways of reconciliation and reform. He said that cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves, forgiveness without repentance. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. This hymn, “Forgive, forgive us, Holy God” is certainly not about cheap grace.

If all this seems harsh then we are strangers to the gospel call which is Jesus’ call to “Follow me.” We are not called to grovel in guilt or apologies. We are called to repentance, reform, change. Too often believers have adopted attitudes of superiority, of having the inside track on God’s rules and regulations, of being ‘saved’ by having the right experience or learning to mouth the right formulas. Parents will often want their children (or themselves) praised for admitting to having done something wrong or for having said they were sorry. There is an attitude that says, “That’s enough, there should be no consequences, no need to change behaviours.”

God’s love is unconditional. That is true in the sense that it is not earned, cannot be purchased or possessed. But knowing we are loved always places us in a new place of responsibility and accountability. To experience the acceptance, warmth and intimacy of love, human and divine, calls forth from us new love – love that is practiced, love that seeks to be attentive and true, love that is increasingly integral to our being.

An Activity: Pray this prayer hymn over the next days. Day One – Pray verse 1 and 5. Day Two – Pray verse 2 and 5. Day Three – Pray verse 3 and 5. Day Four – Pray verse 4 and 5. Day Five – Pray verse 5. Day Six – Pray the entire hymn. Ask yourself, and perhaps journal: What has changed for you? What has changed in you?

                                                    Audio Sample

Verses 1, 2, and 5 played on piano

Scripture References

  • Genesis 4:1-16
  • Isaiah 65:17-20a
  • Isaiah 65:25
  • Jeremiah 7:1-11
  • Matthew 5:9
  • Matthew 25:42-45
  • Luke 1:46-55
  • Luke 1:76-79
  • Luke 2:13-15

Season, Theme
or Subject

  • Advent∶ Year 'A'∶ Advent 3
  • Advent∶ Year 'B'∶ Advent 1
  • Anzac Day (NZ)
  • Confession
  • Forgiveness
  • Humanity
  • Lent
  • Non-violence
  • Peace
  • Remembrance Day (Canada, Australia)
  • Remembrance Sunday (UK)
  • Sorrow
  • Suffering
  • Veterans Day (U.S.)
  • Violence
  • War
  • World

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