History of Hymns: 'Amazing Abundance'
By C. Michael Hawn
by Laurie Zelman and Mark A. Miller
Worship and Song, 3120
poured out on this land,
the mark of your gracious
and generous hand.
Your blessing is richest
on those who will give
with joy and thanksgiving
so others may live.
Praise God of all nations,
O help us to see
the whole world is yours, Lord,
and yearns to be free.*
*©2003 Abingdon Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Methodist theology places social holiness at the heart of its practice. Social holiness requires Christians to demonstrate their love of God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love one another as Christ loves us (1 John 4:19-21). In the preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739), John Wesley stated, “‘Holy Solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness” (Pedlar, 2011, n.p.). Methodist scholar James Pedlar stresses that social holiness for John Wesley was not the same as social justice. “Social holiness begins in Christian community, and therefore has everything to do with the internal life of the church.” Thus, social holiness is cultivated in the context of Christian fellowship. Social justice certainly is a natural extension of social holiness, but the genesis of social justice in Wesleyan theology comes from within the Christian community. This hymn engages “all nations” in God’s praise, a world that “yearns to be free”—an expression of social holiness and justice.
“Amazing Abundance” begins with gratitude and generosity of spirit. A hymn that begins with the word “Amazing” immediately recalls one of the most famous hymns of all time, “Amazing Grace.” Indeed, “Amazing Abundance” inspires a similar profusion of blessing. It is out of the blessing “poured out on this land” that Christians respond with “joy and thanksgiving” for the benefit of those in need. Stanza 2 begins with “A holy compassion” that fuels our response “when tragedy threatens.” The stanza acknowledges God’s omnipresent spirit that extends “through darkness / and battles despair.” Stanza 3 is a plea for a diverse “tapestry woven / by myriad hands.” This tapestry honors “difference” and “freedom.” The refrain is a petition to the “God of all nations” for the freedom of all peoples.
Published in 2003, it is possible to read the hymn text through the lens of the tragic events of 9/11. Even following some of the most catastrophic of days in the history of the United States, the Christian response expressed in this hymn is one of hope—abundant hope celebrated in the “social” context of a justice that celebrates diversity and freedom for all.
The song first appeared in Amazing Abundance: Hymns for a Growing Church (Abingdon Press, 2003), a collection of Mark Miller’s tunes, before being included in Worship and Song.
Through his family, Mark Miller has strong ties to The United Methodist Church. Mark is the cousin, brother, son, and grandson of United Methodist ministers. He has earned degrees from Yale University (BA in Music, 1989) and The Julliard School (MM in Organ Performance, 1991), and he serves as Minister of Music at Christ Church, Summit, New Jersey. He is also Associate Professor of Church Music and Composer in Residence at Drew University Theological School and a Lecturer in Sacred Music at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University.
Laurie Zelman began composing texts with Mark Miller during her seminary study at Drew University. She is an ordained deacon, serving Montville United Methodist Church in Towaco, New Jersey, as a counselor for persons with mental illness and substance abuse.
Hillary Doerries, “Mark Miller,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/m/mark-miller. Accessed February 3, 2020.
James Pedlar, “John Wesley and the Mission of God, part 5: Social Holiness,” (September 22, 2011). https://jamespedlar.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/john-wesley-and-the-mission-of-god-part-5-social-holiness. Accessed February 25, 2020.
C. Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor, and Director, Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.