‘A Guest,’ I Answered, ‘Worthy to be Here’

 

‘Miserere mei, Deus’ is based on Psalm 51. It was composed by Gregorio Allegri, transcribed by a young Mozart and sung here by the incomparable Tenebrae Choir.

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgement.
 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
 then you will delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

                                                                ~ Psalm 51 NRSVA
   

 

The first step in becoming a follower of Christ is recognising my own depthless misery – my sin. I can’t turn back time. I can’t undo any of what I have done. I made the chasm between myself and God. Me. Why? Because I do stupid, hurtful things, selfish things. Christ alone was perfect, and He alone took the stain of sin upon Himself, so that I might not have to be separated from God. I deserve none of what He gave, yet because my Creator knows me, and loves me, He brings Himself to me. What love is this?

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”

“My dear, then I will serve.”

“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

~ Love by George Herbert, circa 1633

 

Too Short for Star Wars?

the appointed time has grown short;

from now on,

let even those who have wives be as though they had none,

and those who mourn as though they were not mourning,

and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing,

and those who buy as though they had no possessions,

and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.

For the present form of this world is passing away.

~ 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (NRSVA)

You have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
     Surely everyone goes about like a shadow…

 ‘And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
    My hope is in you.

~ extract from Psalm 39:5-7

I go through a passage from the Old Testament and a passage from the New Testament most days. I don’t currently use a devotional because I’m already reading at least one Christian book. Today the similarities in the two passages jumped out at me. The NT does, consciously and unconsciously, echo the OT. It’s quite beautiful when you recognise it.

But then, I confess, I stumbled. My brain read those words from the psalm and came up with this:

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You know you’re somewhat too much of a Star Wars fan when this is the image that comes to mind when you are trying to read the Word of God. My life, I thank God, has not been too short for Star Wars. In fact, a Star Wars fest might be just what the doctor ordered (i.e. in relation to the post I made yesterday). I love Sci Fi ❤ Happy Saturday!

 

Reblog: ‘The Bible is a Refugee Narrative: The Church and Migration’

I have wanted to write something along these lines myself, but here it is done eloquently and succinctly. Thank you, Matt 🙂

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Bible is the sweeping story of a refugee people.

It’s sometimes hard to see it as such, when bishops sit in the House of Lords and American evangelicals have access to the corridors of power. But without the stories of liberation from Egypt, and the Exile in Babylon, and the Roman oppression of Israel, the whole narrative of the Scriptures falls apart. Even the words in black and white come to us not from the rarefied atmosphere of some ancient theological powerhouse but from immigrant communities remembering the destruction of their cities, their journey into exile.

And so there’s a direct link across the ages between the antisemitic plots recorded in theBook of Estherand the refugees who arrived in the UK as part of theKindertransport; there’s a link betweenthose fleeing Aleppo and the Book of Lamentations; people looking for economic security and the

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Hope

640px-oedipus_at_colonus

Oedipus at Colonus by Harriet Fulchran-Jean (Wikipedia)

A man desperate for many years of life, not content to live a moderate span, is… obviously a fool, for many feelings stored by lengthy years evoke more pain than joy, but when we live beyond those years that are appropriate, then our delights are nowhere to be found. The same deliverer visits all of us, and when our fate from Hades comes at last, there is no music, dance or wedding song. No, only the finality of death. The finest of all possibilities is never to be born. 

~ from Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, 401BC,

translated by Ian Johnston

Love never ends… we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)

The last enemy to be destroyed is death… 

What is sown is perishable. What is raised is imperishable…

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

…thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:26, 42, 55, 57

What comfort comes from the sureness of God’s merciful compassion! What hope from the knowledge of His love! What thanks we can raise when all suffering is ended, when, as the Salvationists say, our loved one is ‘promoted to glory’. We are sad because we will never take Grandma out for lunch again. We won’t share a cheeky grin. We won’t share the fresh joy of new-burst daffodils, or the pleasant cure-all of a ‘nice cup of tea’. But we know that –

…the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more…

Revelation 21:3 – 4

For Ordinary Folk Theology Is

A good and solid biblical teacher must come clean about their manner of interpretation early on, or you have no foundation for trusting what they say. Just saying, “It is in Scripture,” as most do, is largely meaningless, because anyone can find a workable “proof text” for whatever they want to believe somewhere in the Bible.

~ Richard Rohr

There is an excellent post from Richard Rohr today about how we approach our faith, its beliefs and tenets, and how we interpret the bible. I confess I have been steadily surprised and awed by Richard Rohr, although I don’t always agree with what he says, not being Catholic (but then, I think he’d be fine with that, which is one of the reasons I like him). As a Baptist, I truly value the importance of The Word, but Rohr seems to encompass this (and more) in this post. He puts into words things I might have discerned or felt but was never quite able to grasp concretely enough to express. I look forward to learning more. Meantime, if you’re interested, you can find the post by clicking here: Our Tricycle for Forward Movement

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Rohr, in trying to describe the Holy Spirit, uses the words ‘force field’, which inevitably and somewhat hysterically reminds me of Star Wars: “Use the force, Luke!”  

Image:

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38391903

 

Standing by the Water Gate

‘…all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate.They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding… He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive… Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground… So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading… 

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.’

Nehemiah 8:1-12 NRSVA

Grey Sky, Froggatt by Mark H. Wilson, Sheffield

Sometimes life is far from easy. Sometimes life seems so full of mourning and loss that I don’t know which way to look. I lift my eyes and all I see is grief, so great that it fills the sky. Grey upon grey it falls like rain, pounding the unyielding earth.  I look to the hills. Where is my hope?

When the Israelites returned from exile they must have mourned for all they had lost, all that might have been. They wept when God’s word was spoken to them because they heard it with understanding. Sometimes it is only during these times of grief that we can begin to understand. We realise not only how fallen the world is, but how unworthy we are.

Yet God says do not weep. Do not mourn. We are called to rejoice, to share what we have with those who have none, because He has called today holy.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow I am redeemed. This is life with Christ. One day at a time.