Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Poetry in Ordinary Time: The Power of a Hymn

This past Sunday, it was my turn to prepare and lead the Prayers of the People.  To do this, I generally review the lectionary for the day, and also refer back to a template of prayers I keep on file, amending them accordingly.  This time wasn't any different.  As Monday was being marked as "World Food Day", I made sure to include a prayer that seemed suitable.

Then we sang the Gradual Hymn -- #442 in our Book of Common Praise (published, 1998): "Great God, Your Love has Called Us Here".  The words just 'got' to me as we sang, and I knew I had to use it to begin the Prayers.

After the service, a fellow parishioner complimented me. "I really like that poem you read at the start of the prayers," he said.  Thanking him, I also startled him by saying, "It was just the hymn.  The one we'd just sung."  He went away muttering that he'd have to pay more attention next time. 

And that got me thinking.  I'm a singer; I'm part of the music team in this parish -- as I have been part of music teams and choirs on and off since I was a young girl.  I am also a "word" person...someone who enjoys reading and writing -- and that includes poetry.  Although I've never been particularly good at Lectio Divina, there have been many times in the course of my life that words in a book, song or poem have 'jumped out' at me, and followed me around for hours, if not days.  Sunday was one of those times, and it seemed right to share those words -- hoping that someone else would 'hear' them too, so connected they seemed to be to the messages in the readings, and the homily.

Often, though, when it comes to hymns, we may be so focused on getting the tune, the timing and/or the lyrics "right" that we don't really pay attention to what those words mean: to whit, the startled response of my fellow-parishioner when I said "It was just the hymn."  And despite my sensitivity to and fondness for words, I'm just as guilty of this sort of oversight as anyone.

So perhaps, next time you're singing along with the radio, or with your church community...try to focus on the lyrics.  What you 'hear' might just surprise you with sorrow, inspiration, joy, and wonder.   And then you might find yourself asking, with the composer of yet another hymn, "How can I keep from singing?"

For those of you who missed it on Sunday, here's the 'poem' I read from the hymnal...

1 Great God, your love has called us here
as we, by love, for love were made.
Your living likeness still we bear,
though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed.
We come, with all our heart and mind
your call to hear, your love to find.
2 We come with self-inflicted pains
of broken trust and chosen wrong;
half-free, half-bound by inner chains;
by social forces swept along,
by powers and systems close confined;
yet seeking hope for humankind.
3 Great God, in Christ you call our name
and then receive us as your own
not through some merit, right, or claim,
but by your gracious love alone.
We strain to glimpse your mercy seat
and find you kneeling at our feet.
4 Then take the towel, and break the bread,
and humble us, and call us friends.
Suffer and serve till all are fed,
and show how grandly love intends
to work till all creation sings,
to fill all worlds, to crown all things.
5 Great God, in Christ you set us free
your life to live, your joy to share.
Give us your Spirit's liberty
to turn from guilt and dull despair
and offer all that faith can do
while love is making all things new.
Lyrics: Brian Wren (1936 -- )
Tune: "St. Petersburg" - Dmitri Bortniansky (1751-1825)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Poetry in Ordinary Time: Thanksgiving

In 2010, British poet Malcolm Guite posted a poem he'd written "for all his North American friends" following a visit to Canada...and I share it with you now.


Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,
Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
The warp and weft that no one can unravel.
So I give thanks for our deep coinherence
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

*To listen to Mr. Guite read this aloud, click HERE.  Note that, as do many Brits, he refers to us a "American"...meaning North American.  Happy Thanksgiving!

The Annual Fall Dinner is Coming!

When?  Thursday, October 19, 2017
Time?  Serving starts at 5:30 p.m.
Menu?  Roast beef with all the trimmings!
A selection of home-made pies for dessert!
Tickets?  $15.00 per person
Contact Helen Wright for yours!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

More than Ever...

Today marks the Feast of St. Francis of whom this prayer is attributed. In light of recent events, and a year that has seen much turmoil and unrest, may these words resonate...not only on our lips but in our lives.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It's September...and That Means...

Sundae Sunday 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Welcome back everyone from summer travels with a build-your-own-sundae party after the 10:00 a.m. service.  

Remember that adults planning to over-indulge 
must be accompanied by a child!  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Poetry in Ordinary Time: Ellen Bass

Another 'thank you' to Parker Palmer for sharing this poem...a soothing balm for those of us feeling that indeed, " is a hard time to be human"...from Ellen Bass.

The World Has Need of You

"everything here
 seems to need us" - Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it,
As I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arm swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It's a hard time to be human.  We know too much
and too little.  Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs?  The gulls?
If you've managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn't care.
But when Newton's apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

- Ellen Bass from her book, Like a Beggar, Copper Canyon Press, 2014

You can listen to Garrison Keillor read this poem aloud on the June 25, 2016 edition of The Writer's Almanac.  (Please note that the poem comes at the end of the podcast.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Did They See it Coming?

This morning I prepared the Order of Service for next Sunday, August 6.  That day we mark the Feast of the Transfiguration.  That got me thinking...

The Transfiguration
Raphael - ca. 1520

Over 2,000 years out, this story from Scripture may be very familiar to those of us with the habit of regular church attendance, who've sat through years of lectionary readings, hearing it repeated on a regular cycle -- perhaps even studied it in a Bible Study or theology class.

But have any of us ever stopped to think about the reality of what happened in that "mountain-top experience"?  I'm betting those disciples never saw that coming!

For reflection this week I offer up this sonnet by Rev. Malcom Guite from his book, Sounding the Seasons (Canterbury Press, 2012)...

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

If you wish, you can listen to Rev. Guite read this aloud HERE -- an invitation to light a candle, sit quietly, close your eyes and let the Spirit get under your 'tender skin'...