‘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

 

Clarinet and Ukulele

Last week Fluff (13) had her first clarinet lesson. Her piano teacher also teaches clarinet so we’re very fortunate. Fluff often feels like she lives in the shadow of her sister, which is difficult when it’s your little sister. Chip (11) is one of those (annoying) people who is gifted at everything: she’s very academic, she’s a natural swimmer, she played for the school football team in primary school, she’s a gifted actress, she was voted form captain within the first fortnight of secondary school, she’s friends with everyone, she got the Head Teacher’s Commendation Award at the end of the first term (December ’16), she currently has both bronze and silver merit badges… Need I say more? I marvel at this girl. Is she really bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh?!

I adore my Chip but sometimes find it hard to relate to her seemingly inevitable success, not to mention her gushing abundance of self confidence. Fluff – fiercely independent, creative, very much her own person, not as academic but determined, a bit of a loner – I confess I relate to better. Fluff is currently discovering her innate talent for music (she’s just picked up my ukulele and begun playing, never having touched it before). We bought her a second-hand clarinet for Christmas and by the end of Boxing Day she was playing In the Bleak Midwinter.

The delightful thing, for me as her parent, is that because she’s not used to being as naturally good at something as her sister, she takes such joy in the discovery of music. She’s also recognised that hard work pays off: she has a natural talent but knows that musicianship is found in practise, and plenty of it.

I wonder if there’s a lesson in that? I wonder if something is the more wonderful when it is hard won? I wonder if joy is only truly found in the space between sorrows?

“The kingdom of heaven is like [yeast], which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till all of it was leavened.”

“…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:33, 45-46 (NKJV)

emphasis mine

Alleluia

Happy Sunday! I know it’s not Easter Sunday but this song kept popping into my head this morning. Actually, to be honest it was “praise the Lord for ibuprofen, alleluia!” (I hurt my shoulder doing Pilates) but nevertheless my earworm prompted me to look for the real song on youtube – et voila: this rousing rendition.

I just have one niggle about this video, regarding the picture of Jesus used as a background: why does ‘Jesus’ so often look like a Northern European celebrity doing a shampoo ad? He looks like he’s just about to toss his hair, turn to the camera and, with a smug smile, tell us what brand he’s using. Why do people insist on depicting Jesus this way?

Lent Begins: Footsteps to the Cross

One step at a time. One day at a time. This is good advice, which I learned at Celebrate Recovery. It seems fitting for the beginning of Lent, as we journey to the cross over the next six weeks. Day one of The Gospel in the Willows: Forty Meditations for the Days of Lent speaks of ‘The Call’.

Walking along the beach… Jesus saw two brothers: Simon… and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

Matthew 4:18-20 (The Message)

“Come with me.” He still says, holding out his hand. Are you willing?

Autumn

I love the way the leaves change from green to gold to red. I love how the wind plays with the leaves, making them skip and flutter. I love watching the silver birches at the end of the garden as they bend and shake in the wind. Autumn is well and truly here.

Maybe it’s the blustery weather, but today I am reminded of one of my all-time favourite pieces of music: Wagner’s overture to Tannhauser. I know Tannhauser is an opera, but I’d love to see ballet performed to this particular piece. It is so bold and vivid, from the timid to the grand – just like autumn I suppose.

Sometimes Even Music Cannot Substitute for Tears

Hard times?
I’m used to them
The speeding planet burns
I’m used to that
My life’s so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears

Paul Simon’s breathtaking poetry has been echoing around my head this morning. Do you always have music in your head or is it just me? Last week I did the BBC’s ‘How Musical are You?’ quiz, designed by researchers from some university or other. It told me I was more musical than 99% of people. Whatever that means.

I went to music school, briefly, when I was 18. I only lasted a term because of a recurring illness, but I loved it. I felt like I was in the presence of so much burning talent. Part of my journey now, as an adult going through the process of healing, has been discovering my identity. This is a strange process to go through in your late twenties <ahem> early thirties <ahem> at my age.

Today I bought a copy of the sheet music for the audition piece I played, all those years ago. It is a real thrill to rediscover these talents and creativity. Almost too much of a thrill. To one in the process of recovery, it is almost intimidating. What if it all goes wrong again? What if I have to give it all up again? What if I fall in love with writing and music and creating with the same burning passion that my Creator made me… and then life steals it all, again? Can I go through that pain again?

But maybe…. Maybe the real truth is that I never lost these things. Maybe… they are God-breathed – and not possible to lose.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth…

Psalm 98:4 NRSVA

…the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

Seems like music is an inescapable part of living.