Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand
from those whose portion in life is this world;
Whose bellies you fill with your treasure,
who are well supplied with children
and leave their wealth to their little ones.
But at my vindication I shall see your face;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding
Psalm 17: 14-16
These three verses spoke to me today. “Deliver me…from those whose portion in life is this world.” It’s a striking description of the dynasties of wealth and power that control the earth and fill the news. It sums up their reach through time and the limits of that reach. And I love the way that vindication–satisfaction–comes on the other side of death. Are the wicked destroyed? Did they ever suffer? It doesn’t matter. The powerful have had their time, and we wake to behold the face of God.
A New Testament verse also struck me, and it felt like a sort of defiant acceptance of self–a sentiment with which I am familiar. Perhaps, if you’ve ever felt out of step with the rest of humanity, you’ll know what I mean.
…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.
I Corinthians 15: 10a
Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church
Photo credit: J.Stephen Conn
I want a sober mind,
An all sustaining eye,
To see my God above,
And to the heavens fly.
I’d soar away above the sky,
I’d fly to see my God above.
I want a Godly fear,
A quick discerning eye,
That looks to Thee my God,
And see the tempter fly.
Tune: A. Marcus Cagle, 1935
Words: Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1814
A perfect marriage of text and tune: the stern austerity of the lines about sobriety and Godly fear breaks into an ecstatic fugue as the singer soars upward to see God. A hymn about vision and transport.
Thought for a beautiful spring morning…
A heart that would contemplate must be bright as a mirror, shimmer like some still stretch of water crystal clear, so that in it and through it the mind may see itself, as in and through a mirror, an image in the image of God. The heart that covets the sight of God as in a mirror must keep itself free from cares, from harmful, unnecessary and even necessary ones. It must keep itself ever alert through reading, meditation and prayer. Blessed are the pure of heart; they shall see God. May he grant that we do so. Amen.
Isaac of Stella (d. 1169)
translated by Hugh McCaffery
From In the School of Love: An Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, selected and annotated by Edith Scholl, Cistercian Publications, 2000.
For years my parents have hung a Moravian Star throughout Advent and Christmas and on up to Epiphany, and when I think of Epiphany, this is the star that appears in my imagination. It’s the star I think of, more than the Wise Men, probably because the star gives me hope. Hope that God will give me a sign, a light in the darkness, that he won’t leave me wandering and stumbling, trying to get to Him without any help. It’s why I love the hymn, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” –which to my mind is not really a child’s hymn, though I’ve taught it to children and been warmed by their singing.
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
A blessed Epiphany to us all.