Sunday, July 27, 2008

Children of the Heavenly Father

Children of the Heavenly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven*
Such a refuge e'er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish
In His holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things He spares them**;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever**.
Unto them His grace He showeth
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh
God His children ne'er forsaketh***;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

---Karoline Sandell-Berg (Swedish), 1858; translated Ernst W. Olson

*Jesus said, "Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. And even the hairs of your head are numbered. So stop being afraid: you are worth much more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:30. (Another song verse not given here--because it was clumsy in its translation---speaks of the numbering of the hairs.)
**Romans 8:28-39. God brings good out of all things and nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death.
***When Job's first troubles came, he responded by saying, "Naked came I from my mother's womb and naked shall I return there [the dark "womb" of the grave]. Yahweh gives and He takes away; blessed be the Name of Yahweh." Job 1:21.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

O Worship the King

O worship the King, all glorious above;
O gratefully sing His power and His love*.
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days:
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace*,
Whose robe is the light, Whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail.
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend*.

O measureless might! Unmeasurable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays**,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

---Robert Grant, 1833; adapted Marie Byars, 2008

*All this comes from Jesus
**An old-fashioned word for poetic songs

Sunday, July 6, 2008

If Only...

[This prose is almost poetic.]

If only Adam hadn't sinned, humanity would have recognized God in all creatures and would have love and praised Him so that even in the smallest blossom they would have seen and pondered His power, grace, and wisdom. But who can fathom how from the barren earth God creates so many kinds of flowers of such lovely colors and sweet scent, as no painter or alchemist could make? Yet God can bring forth from the earth green, yellow, red, blue, brown, and every kind of color. All these things would have turned the mind of Adam and his kin to honor God and glorify and praise Him and to enjoy His creatures with gratitude. ---Martin Luther ("Table Talk" 4.198, Weimar)

But through sin and the fall we humans have become so weakened, so poisoned and corrupted in body, soul, eyes, ears and everywhere that our sense are not the 100th part as sharp as were Adam's before the fall. Our bodies are unclean, and all creatures have become subject to futility (Romans 8). The [16th century!] sun, moon, stars, clouds, air, earth and water are no longer so pure and beautiful and lovely as they were [before sin]. But on that [last] day, all things will be made new and will once more be beautiful, as St. Paul says, Romans 8: "Creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." ---Martin Luther (Weimar 44.231ff)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

America the Beautiful

(These sentiments are more noble---and certainly more Christian*---than modern America deserves. And, yet, pockets of America still live this out beautifully.)

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace* on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood**,
from sea to shining sea.

O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw*;
Confirm thy soul in self control**,

 thy liberty in law!

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy* more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine**,
'Til all success be nobleness,
and ev'ry gain divine**!

O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!

 God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood**,
from sea to shining sea! --- Katharine Lee Bates, English professor at Wellesley College around 4 July, 1893
(on a trip from the east coast to Colorado Springs)

*While "Jesus" & being "saved from sin" are not clearly spelled out in this poem/song, they underlie these thoughts quire clearly
**The work of the Holy Spirit, who works in Christians to do better things and creates a true brotherhood

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Change & the Comfort of the Resurrection

(from the longer poem "That Nature is a Heraclitean (1) Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection.")

...Vastness blurs and time beats level. Enough! the Resurrection

A heart's clarion (2)! Away grief's grasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck (3) shone
A beacon, and eternal beam. Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world's wildfire, leave but ash (1):
In a flash, at a trumpet crash (4)
I am all at once what Christ is, since He was what I am, and
this Jack(5), joke poor potsherd, patch(6), matchwood, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.(7)
---Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1888

(1) Heraclitus [(c) 535-(c) 475 B.C.); Greek philosopher who taught that the basis of all existence was change or "fire." "Strife" changes fire into water, water into earth, and then the process reversed. Hopkins didn't truly believe this philosophy but used it to symbolize the change of the corrupted nature and of the corrupting body in the grave into something immortal & beautiful (Diamonds also come out of the earth & are processed by fire.)
(2) Clarion--a clear, trumpet-like, beckoning call
(3) Foundering deck: shipwreck as a symbol of death. (Again, the "water.")
(4) Trumpet: borrowed directly from II Corinthians 15:25.
(5) "Jack": common fellow; this name was well-used in England.
(6) Patch (archaic): fool, ninny; also, a detached piece, a make-shift fragment, such as the potsherd Job used to scrape his sores (Job 2:8)
(7) "Immortal Diamond": Hopkins, as a Roman Catholic, believed that people carried the "scintilla", the spark of original good, within themselves, even after Sin entered the world. As a Lutheran, I take the immortal diamond, already there alongside the corrupt things, to be the new person that is created in Christ when the person is saved. (The term "immortal diamond" has also been used as a title for Hopkins himself.)