247

I Love Your Church, O Lord

Full Text

1 I love your church, O Lord!
Her saints before you stand,
dear as the apple of your eye
and graven on your hand.

2 Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
her sweet communion, solemn vows,
her hymns of love and praise.

3 I love your church, O God,
the people you have called,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

See Matthew 16:17-19 and I Timothy 3:14-16.

For stanza 1 and the reference to the “apple of your eye” see Deuteronomy 32:10, Psalm 17:8 and Zechariah 2:8.

247

I Love Your Church, O Lord

Introductory/Framing Text

Because the British emphasis of Isaac Watts' psalms and hymns became politically incorrect in the United States following the American Revolution, the Congregational and Presbyterian churches of Connecticut asked Timothy Dwight to revise Watts' collection. The title of Dwight's volume explains its contents: The Psalms of David … by I. Watts. A New Edition in which the Psalms omitted by Dr. Watts are versified, local passages are altered, and a number of Psalms are versified anew in proper metres. By Timothy Dwight … To the Psalms is added a Selection of Hymns (1801). This edition, known as “Dwight’s Watts,” became a popular collection in the United States, although Dwight’s own versifications of psalms were often very free even by late eighteenth-century standards.
 
Inspired by Psalm 137:5-6, Dwight's text was published in eight stanzas; the first line was originally "I love your kingdom, Lord" (Dwight equated the kingdom of God with the church of God). The Psalter Hymnal includes his stanzas 1-2 and 6.
 
Dwight's text is the oldest hymn text by an American author in common use today. In three compact stanzas "I Love Your Church" proclaims a profound love for the church of God, for its members who are saved by Christ, and who express their communion in whole-life worship.
 
ST. THOMAS is actually lines 5 through 8 of the sixteen-line tune HOLBORN, composed by Aaron Williams and published in his Collection (1763, 1765) as a setting for Charles Wesley's text "Soldiers of Christ, Arise." The harmonization is by Lowell Mason. Well-suited to part singing, ST. THOMAS must remain stately, with two broad beats per bar.
 
— Bert Polman

Call to Worship

God of grace and glory,
whom saints and angels
delight to worship in heaven,
we bless you,
we magnify you,
we adore you
as Lord of heaven and earth.
We bless and thank you
for all those made saints
through Jesus Christ,
who have testified to your love,
and shared the gifts with which you graced them.
May your Spirit be powerfully at work
through the communion of your saints
to build us all up in faith and love,
for loving service to each other
and to the world you so love,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

You are no longer strangers and aliens,
but you are citizens with the saints
and also members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined together
and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
in whom you also are built together spiritually
into a dwelling place for God.
—Ephesians 2:19-22, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

I looked, and there was a great multitude
that no one could count, from every nation,
from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God
who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We praise you, O God, for all your saints in heaven.
How grateful we are of the life and witness of . . .
[A list of names may be read.]
We also praise you for all those whose names are held in your loving memory,
the vast company of voices who acclaim you as Lord.
We are grateful for this vast company of witnesses.
Strengthen us as we follow their lead.
Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus,
forerunner in faith, Lord of all.
Strengthen us in the hope that we with them
will taste and see your goodness in the land of the living.
By your Spirit, teach us even now
to sing the song of heaven:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb. Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
—based on 1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 7:9-12
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
247

I Love Your Church, O Lord

Tune Information

Name
ST. THOMAS
Key
F Major
Meter
6.6.8.6

Recordings

247

I Love Your Church, O Lord

Author Information

Timothy Dwight (b. Northampton, MA, 1752; d. Philadelphia, PA, 1817) was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards who became a Congregationalist pastor, a Revolutionary War army chaplain, a tutor and professor at Yale College, and president of Yale from 1795 to 1817. As president he continued to teach and serve as chaplain and was instrumental in improving both the academic and the spiritual life of the college.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Aaron Williams (b. London, England, 1731; d. London, 1776) was a singing teacher, music engraver, and clerk at the Scottish Church, London Wall. He published various church music collections, some intended for rural church choirs. Representative of his compilations are The Universal Psalmodist (1763)— published in the United States as The American Harmony (1769)—The Royal Harmony (1766), The New Universal Psalmodist (1770), and Psalmody in Miniature (1778). His Harmonia Coelestis (1775) included anthems by noted composers.
— Bert Polman
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