Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life (ELW 719)
1 Where cross the crowded ways of life,
where sound the cries of race and clan,
above the noise of selfish strife,
we hear your voice, O Son of Man.
2 In haunts of wretchedness and need,
on shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed,
we catch the vision of your tears.
3 From tender childhood’s helplessness,
from human grief and burdened toil,
from famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
your heart has never known recoil.
4 The cup of water giv’n for you
still holds the freshness of your grace;
yet long these multitudes to view
the strong compassion in your face.
5 O Master, from the mountainside
make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide;
oh, tread the city’s streets again;
6 Till all the world shall learn your love
and follow where your feet have trod;
till glorious from your heav’n above
shall come the city of our God.
Composed by Frank M. North, this early 20th century hymn was written for the teeming masses in New York City who’d migrated north following the Civil War. North was greatly influenced by Walter Rauschenbusch of the Social Gospel movement. The theology of this movement expands our understanding that sin is not only an individual problem but also a community one. The social order itself is plagued by the power of sin which ignores issues such as workers’ rights, women’s rights, and the harms of child labor. It was true a hundred years ago and it still is today. We thus have a responsibility to those whose lives are so affected by being poor or marginalized. We have work to do for “social justice” on behalf of those “in the haunts of wretchedness,” the helpless child, those in grief, the hungry, or those living in the stress of sorrow or need.
“O Master, from the mountainside make haste to heal these hearts of pain; among these restless throngs abide; oh, tread the city’s streets again.” Amen. (Verse 5)