Monday, June 17, 2019

Hiatus

I'm taking a two-week break from blogging while we take some family time this summer. Normal posts will resume on Monday, July 1.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday Synaxis

O Jesus! Inexhaustible Fountain of compassion, who by a profound gesture of love, said from the cross "I thirst!"--as you suffered from the thirst for the salvation of the human race. I beg of Thee, O my Savior, to inflame in our hearts the desire to tend toward perfection in all our acts, and to extinguish in us the ardor of worldly desires. Amen.

- Bridget of Sweden

Friday, June 14, 2019

Song of the Week: Come Follow Me!

The song I've written for this week can't really be called a "hymn" like so many of my others, because I'm not sure it would work with congregational singing, but I think it would be a fun one to perform in a church setting. It's based on the tune of the old Scottish folk song "Two Recruiting Sergeants" (and I'm especially indebted to Great Big Sea's rendition). I've kept some of the  "recruiting" elements and transformed it into a song about Christ's call for us to follow him in the adventure of abundant life.

 
Come Follow Me

Christ came walking down one day to the Sea of Galilee
And spoke to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee:
"Fishermen you are, so come fishing souls with me--
Give up your small ambitions, and come follow me!"

     (Chorus)
     "And I'll lead you to glory and I'll lead you to peace;
      You'll see the Kingdom come in pow'r, the sinners be set free;
      And you'll receive the riches of God's grace eternally;
      Abundant life is calling, so come follow me!
      Abundant life is calling, so come follow me!"

Christ speaks out to every age and tells the sinner's heart
To surrender their sorrows and make a brand new start;
For through our Savior's sacrifice, grace meets you where you are:
"Give up your sins and failings, and come follow me!"

     (Chorus)

Though you may be walking through the darkness of night,
And though your life may feel like a struggle and a fight--
Hear the Savior calling in the dawning of the light:
"Give up your hurts and heartaches, and come follow me!"

     (Chorus)

Too long you've been a prisoner of your sadness and your shame,
Too long your sins have bound you down in hopelessness and pain;
There's freedom in the Savior, so call upon his name.
"Give up your chains, you captives, and come follow me!"

     (Chorus x2)
 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pilgrimage Memoir: The Joy of All Generations


“I had expected many things from Jerusalem, but I had not expected this. I had expected to be disappointed with it as a place utterly profaned and fallen below its mission. I had expected to be awed by it; indeed I had expected to be frightened of it, as a place dedicated and even doomed by its mission. But I had never fancied that it would be possible to be fond of it.”  

- G. K. Chesterton, The New Jerusalem

~ ~ ~

          It was finally time, on Sunday in the Holy Land, to see the city that countless ages had exalted in song, “the joy of all generations” (Is. 60:15): Jerusalem, where kings and priests had sung David’s psalms of praise; Jerusalem, where the divine presence had descended in power on the Temple courts; Jerusalem, where the eternal Son of God had died and risen again, that I might inherit everlasting life. We drove up the highway from the Jordan Valley, up through the deserts where ancient saints had labored and prayed, until we could finally see the outer fringe of the city’s buildings spilling over the hilltops in front of us. These were the towers of the modern city, the eastern suburbs that now stretched far beyond the old city’s enclosures, but it still gave a running thrill to see them framed against the sky. Najji began playing a rising Gospel chorus about Jerusalem over the bus’s speakers, and those in our group who knew the song all sang along.
          Then, with a dreamlike sort of suddenness, we were there. The bus was pulling up alongside a curb set high on the Mount of Olives, and out across the narrow valley rose the walls of the Old City, the radiant, golden Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, and the steeples of ancient churches beyond. It was a hazy day, but the features and landmarks of the city could be easily seen. I had studied maps and pictures of the city before, and so I picked out from afar the blue domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, rising in humble splendor from among the buildings behind the Temple Mount, long before our guide pointed it out to us. It was the one place in all of Israel that I most longed to see; the single most important spot on the face of the earth. Our schedule dictated that we wouldn’t actually go there until our final day in Jerusalem, but I was already yearning to walk those ancient naves, to climb the stairs to Golgotha, and to pray in the shadow of the Edicule that stands above the tomb of Christ.
          We spent a few minutes in the little curbside park that offered a panoramic view of the Old City, singing a hymn and sharing a prayer together. We were high on the slope of the Mount of Olives, but not all the way to the ridge’s crest. There were a few Gospel sites further up that I wished we could have seen—churches dedicated to the Ascension and the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, and further beyond, the tomb of Lazarus—but such things would have to wait for another pilgrimage.
          As for us, we were turning our steps toward the city, following the old road down the slope that Christ himself may have ridden during his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. The road was narrow and quiet, tracing its way alongside the unspeakably vast cemeteries of faithful Jews, buried on that slope to await the general resurrection on the Day of the Lord. It was a steeper incline than I had imagined: steep enough that one almost had to brace with each step taken. While I knew that donkeys were sure-footed creatures, it gave a slightly different aspect to the Triumphal Entry than the one I had long held: that even amid the shouting and songs of praise, Christ must have been struck by the gravity of the descent that he was making, down, down, down to the valley that lay in the shadow of the Temple’s altars.
          Some way before we came to the base of the mount, where the narrow Kidron Valley separated the Old City from the rising slope, we paused to rest and pray in the little chapel called “Dominus Flevit” (Latin for “the Lord wept”). It commemorates the account in the Gospels where Jesus paused during his entry to Jerusalem, looked out over the city, and lamented its coming woes. The chapel itself is very small—one of the smallest we encountered in the Holy Land—but marvelously designed to evoke the shape of a teardrop. It tapers up to a point at the top, allowing in a beam of light from the heavens, as if to remind us to look upward for hope when we are faced with the darkness and trials of life.
          Immediately behind the altar is a broad window that looks out over the Old City of Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount dominating the center. Jesus would have seen that same sight, and would have known that (as he predicted) the beautiful Temple and much of the city would shortly be turned over to the immense pain of total devastation at the hands of Romans.
          On the altar is a colorful seal showing a picture of a mother hen with her chicks, the very image that Christ used when describing his feelings of longing to be able to protect and save the people of Jerusalem from what would befall them. It is a poignant reminder that we serve a God who is not callous or disinterested in the heart-shattering problems of pain, torment, and loss that plague the human experience. Rather, as Jesus showed over and over again in his passion, he is a God who has willingly entered into our pilgrimage of pain, and has carried our journeys of sorrow upon his whip-riven back.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Photo of the Week

Thy goodness and Thy truth to me, to every soul, abound:
A vast, unfathomable sea, where all our sins are drowned.
Its streams the whole creation reach, so plenteous is the store;
Enough for all, enough for each, enough forevermore!

- Verses 3-4 of the hymn "Thy Ceaseless, Unexhausted Love"

Monday, June 10, 2019

Quote of the Week

"A man naturally fancies that it is his own exceeding love of virtue that makes him not able to bear with those that want it. And when he abhors one man, despises another, and can't bear a third, he supposes it all to be a proof of his own high sense of virtue and just hatred of sin. And yet one would think that a man needed no other cure for this temper than this one reflection: that if this had been the spirit of the Son of God, if he had hated sin in this manner, there [would have] been no redemption of the world; that if God had hated sinners in this manner day and night, the world itself [would have] ceased long ago. This, therefore, we may take for a certain rule: that the higher our sense of virtue is, the more we shall have compassion on those who lack it."

 - William Law, from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Saturday Synaxis

Dear Shepherd of the chosen few,
Thy former mercies here renew;
Here to the waiting hearts proclaim
The sweetness of thy saving name.
Here may we prove the power of prayer
To strengthen faith and sweeten care,
To teach our faint desires to rise,
And bring all heaven before our eyes.
Lord, we are few, but thou art near;
Nor short thine arm, nor deaf thine ear;
O rend the heavens, come quickly down,
And make a thousand hearts thine own.

- William Cowper

Friday, June 07, 2019

Hymn of the Week: When I Am Weary

My new hymn this week is inspired by the Apostle Paul's reflections on God's strength and sufficiency being present in his own weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). It's set to the 19th-century Gaelic tune "Bunessan," most famously associated with the song "Morning Has Broken."

When I Am Weary

When I am weary, when I am broken,
I rest my spirit in Your embrace.
I am upheld by all You have spoken:
Rivers of new life, riches of grace!

Lord, let Your holy promises fill me
With all that I need here in this day;
May Your Word always teach me Your mercy,
Send me with courage into the fray.

I may be empty, but in my weakness
I find Your mercy working through me.
Your strength is perfect when I am pow'rless,
Your grace sufficient, endless, and free.

Praises and glory, ever and always,
Be to Your holy name evermore!
Praise in my weakness, praise in my trials,
For my completeness comes from You, Lord.