Build a Longer Table (David Bjorlin)

I met Dave Bjorlin at a Hymn Society conference in 2018 in a late-night chat among HS night owls. “Good guy,” I thought. What I didn’t know is that he’s an excellent hymn text author. GIA recently published a collection of his texts, Protest of Praise. It’s full of fresh hymns that address modern injustices.

Dave asked me if I’d consider writing some tunes for texts in the collection. How could I say no? I began with “Build a Longer Table.” This poke-in-the-eye of a hymn is aimed at Christians who want to exclude “those people.” Dave shows that God’s incredible welcome to us through Christ requires us to show hospitality to others.

It was originally paired with the tune NOËL NOUVELET (“Sing We Now of Christmas”). I decided it needed something bolder and more of a proclamation. My tune is an exuberant Gospel groove that declares the text with strength and joy.

1. Build a longer table, not a higher wall,
feeding those who hunger, making room for all.
Feasting together, stranger turns to friend,
Christ breaks walls to pieces; false divisions end.

2. Build a safer refuge, not a larger jail;
where the weak find shelter, mercy will not fail.
For any place where justice is denied,
Christ will breach the jail wall, freeing all inside.

3. Build a broader doorway, not a longer fence.
Love protects all people, sparing no expense.
When we embrace compassion more than fear,
Christ tears down our fences: all are welcome here.

4. When we lived as exiles, refugees abroad,
Christ became our doorway to the reign of God.
So must our tables welcome those who roam.
None can be excluded; all must find a home.

Text: David Bjorlin, b.1984; © 2018 GIA Publications, Inc.

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