We exist in the infinite embrace of God’s mercy. In mercy, we all were created. In mercy, we all live. In mercy, we all have the hope of eternal life.
The lavish mercy of God pours over us in every sunrise and sunset, in every noon and midnight. With every breath, we draw on mercy. With every thought, we capture its spirit and turn it to our hope. The gift of such divine power in us calls us to lavish mercy with our own lives, to be agents of mercy in all things.
This journal is offered as an act of thanksgiving and celebration for that lavish mercy. It is a gathering of reflections and prayers which sift through our ordinary experience to seek the breath-giving grace of God awaiting us there.
My name is Renee Yann. I am a Sister of Mercy. I love to chase God through the bright blessing of words. I love to discover words in the dark blessing of silence. It is a joy to share with you the humble fruit of those mutual blessings.
Our entire theological tradition is expressed in terms of Mercy, which I define as the willingness to enter into the chaos of others. James F. Keenan, S.J.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah tells us that – “on that Day“, God’s People will sing a new song:
On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah: “A strong city have we; God sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.
It is the song of a People who have recognized God’s abiding, protective Presence in their lives. That realization impels them to respond in faith and to open their lives ever more radically to God’s constant graces.
And so it is with us. As we deepen in our trust that God is with us in every circumstance, and as we choose to live out of that trust, our hearts too open to ever deeper relationship with the Holy.
In our Gospel, Jesus says that this kind of faith is more than words. It is action, choice, presence, witness — all of which declare, “I choose to anchor my life in God and to invite God’s Mercy to live through me.”
Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise person who built their house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.”
Matthew 7: 21;24-25
Today’s Gospel passage comes from the first of the Five Discourses in Matthew’s Gospel by which Jesus teaches the New Law of Love. This first discourse holds treasures like the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.
These are the “words” Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel passage — words we must hear and act on in order that God will recognize us “on that Day“. Maybe, if you have a little time, you might like to read through Matthew, chapters 5-7, to savor this First Discourse.
Poetry: Let’s use today’s Responsorial Psalm as our poem-prayer. In it, God’s People celebrate God’s Mercy which has brought them to the “gate” of a new relationship of gratitude and trust with the Holy One.
Give thanks to the LORD, Who is good, Whose mercy endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in human appearances. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in human power.
Open to me the gates of justice and mercy; I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD. This gate is the LORD’s; the just shall enter it. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.
O LORD, grant salvation! O LORD, grant prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; we bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and has given us Light.
Psalm 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a
Music: The Breath at Dawn – Gary Schmidt – some lovely music to start your “new day”.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, the brother of Peter, also a fisherman, a beloved Apostle and friend of Jesus.
Our Gospel tells the story of Andrew’s call. The spontaneity of Andrew and Peter’s response to Jesus is stunning and deeply inspiring!
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Another favorite passage about Andrew is when he points out to Jesus that, in the famished crowd, there is a young boy with five loaves and two fish.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
John 6: 5-10
How simple and complete was Andrew’s faith! Those seven little items must have seemed so minute among 5000. Can you picture Andrew looking into Jesus’s eyes as if to say, “I know it’s not much but you can do anything!” Maybe it was that one devoted look which prompted Jesus to perform this amazing miracle!
We trust that our deep devotion and faith can move God’s heart too. On this feast of St. Andrew, many people begin a prayer which carries them through to Christmas. Praying it, we ask for particular favors from God.
I love this prayer because it was taught to me by my mother, a woman blessed with simple faith like Andrew’s. As I recite it, I ask to be gifted with the same kind of faith.
( Another reason I love it is this: how often in life do you get a chance to say a word like “vouchsafe“! )
St. Andrew Christmas Novena Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
Poetry: St. Andrew’s Day – John Keble
In this thought-provoking poem, the poet uses Andrew’s and Peter’s relationship to reflect on the meaning of being true brothers (and of course SISTERS).
When brothers part for manhood's race, What gift may most endearing prove To keep fond memory its her place, And certify a brother's love?
'Tis true, bright hours together told, And blissful dreams in secret shared, Serene or solemn, gay or bold, Shall last in fancy unimpaired.
E'en round the death-bed of the good
Such dear remembrances will hover,
And haunt us with no vexing mood
When all the cares of earth are over.
But yet our craving spirits feel,
We shall live on, though Fancy die,
And seek a surer pledge-a seal
Of love to last eternally.
Who art thou, that wouldst grave thy name Thus deeply in a brother's heart? Look on this saint, and learn to frame Thy love-charm with true Christian art.
First seek thy Saviour out, and dwell Beneath this shadow of His roof, Till thou have scanned His features well, And known Him for the Christ by proof;
Such proof as they are sure to find
Who spend with Him their happy days,
Clean hands, and a self-ruling mind
Ever in tune for love and praise.
Then, potent with the spell of Heaven, Go, and thine erring brother gain, Entice him home to be forgiven, Till he, too, see his Savior plain..
Or, if before thee in the race, Urge him with thine advancing tread, Till, like twin stars, with even pace, Each lucid course be duly aped.
No fading frail memorial give To soothe his soul when thou art gone, But wreaths of hope for aye to live, And thoughts of good together done.
That so, before the judgment-seat, Though changed and glorified each face, Not unremembered ye may meet For endless ages to embrace.
Music: Hear my prayer, O Lord is an eight-part choral anthem by the English composer Henry Purcell (1659–1695). The anthem is a setting of the first verse of Psalm 102 in the version of the Book of Common Prayer. Purcell composed it c. 1682 at the beginning of his tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah greets us once again with the inspiring phrase, “On that day …”
That day … the one whose dawning we are all awaiting, when all shall be complete and well in God:
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
How will we know when that day has come? Will it be dramatically different from today or yesterday? Will time have paused and the world be turned upside down?
Or will it simply be that in my heart – right here and now – a “new day” has dawned?
Isaiah indicates that the “new day” is potentially present in the day we have, that when we see experience through God’s eyes, the stagnated stump of our lives blossoms in sacred possibility.
On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
Isaiah 11: 1
What a glorious description Isaiah offers us of the world transformed by the longed-for Messiah, that shoot which shall sprout from the stump of Jesse:
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
As we pray these magnificent words this morning, we should let them thrill us with the truth that the “new day” has come! Indeed, since Christ has transformed us through his Incarnation, that “new day” dawns through us when we choose to live our lives impelled by its graces.
In our Gospel, Jesus says we can live in that divine possibility simply by trusting God the way a child trusts.
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
Let’s know and believe that Jesus turns to us as well as we pray today’s Gospel:
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Poetry: Advent Good Wishes – David Grieve
I found this poem in a book by one of my favorite poets, Malcolm Guite. It’s a great book for Advent if you are interested.
Give you joy, wolf, when Messiah makes you meek and turns your roar into a cry that justice has been done for the poor. Give you joy, lamb, when Messiah saves you from jeopardy and all fear is overwhelmed by his converting grace. Give you joy, wolf and lamb together, as Messiah brings worldwide peace and, side by side, you shelter under Jesse’s spreading shoot.
Music: Memory – Trevor Nunn / Thomas Stearns Eliot / Andrew Lloyd-webber / Otto Eckelmann
In this beautiful song from Cats, the writers tap some of the same feelings Isaiah calls up – acknowledgement of the night, hope for the morning, and trust that “that new day” can begin.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah teaches us how to imagine with the power of faith.
We’ve probably all done this, at least in small ways. It’s a mechanism for getting through some of the tougher spots in our lives. For example, when I have an unpleasant dental procedure, I calm myself by imagining the pizza I will pick up on the way home. I even envision a specific time when the procedure will be over and I’ll be in line at the pizzeria.
Isaiah is coaching us in the same coping mechanisms, but on a much grander scale.
On that day, The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel. He who remains in Zion and he who is left in Jerusalem Will be called holy: every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.
During his lifetime, Isaiah lived in a war torn land where the poor and the vulnerable were particularly threatened. These daily anxieties challenged their faith and eroded their confidence in God. Their intent to build and participate in a faithful community suffered because they could not see beyond their pain.
Isaiah tells them that a better day is coming. He invites Israel to stretch their faith, to trust in God’s promise, and to believe that God abides with them and will deliver them to glory.
Then will the LORD create, over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, A smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.
Isaiah is asking a lot of these bereft people. It is really hard to live in the Light when there is nothing around you but darkness. But it is possible to do so by the power of faith.
In our Gospel, Jesus meets a man who has that kind of powerful faith. When Jesus offers to come cure the man’s paralyzed servant, the man says there is no need to come. He already trusts that God is with that servant and will bring him to wholeness.
Hearing the man, Jesus was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Indeed, as we pray today, Isaiah and Jesus may be asking us for the same kind of faith. There is a lot of pain and darkness in the larger world we share, and in many of our individual worlds. As we make our Advent journey, God asks us to live in a way that does not ignore the gloom, but still sees through it to trust the Light – a faith that proclaims God is already with us, bringing us to wholeness.
Poetry: To Imagination – Emily Brontë
When weary with the long day's care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While thou canst speak with such a tone!
So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.
What matters it, that, all around,
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?
Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature's sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart, how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:
But, thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o'er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death,
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,we embark once again on an age-old journey — the path through Advent to Christmas. It is a spiritual journey about which we must be intentional because there are so many cultural distractions to waylay us from the path.
Beloved Isaiah, beautiful poet and prophet, stands along the sideline rallying us:
In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Isaiah is telling us that it is time to get moving – moving deeper into our relationship with God.
Like the “House of Jacob”, winding through a long journey, we may forget where we are really going in our lives. We are not going to material, social, or political success. We are not traveling life’s roads in order to end up at a cushy retirement.
Our lives are about moving deeper and deeper into the heart of God — that’s all. If we are not doing that by engaging the grace of our everyday lives, then we are missing the whole point!
Paul trusts that we understand this. He says, “You know the time … wake up!”
You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…
I have a sleepy friend who loves to linger in her blankets in the morning. When we need to be up and “at ‘em”, I can sound a lot like Paul. “Look at the time!”, “We don’t want to be late!”, “Throw off those blankets of night!”
Friends, the Church gives us the gift of Advent so that we will not be late for the ultimate “God-Party” which is our life’s glorious destination. The potential to reach this “destination” is offered us, not only in some future parousia, but in each moment of our existence by our choice for grace.
In our Gospel, Jesus reiterates the profound importance of our wakeful awareness of God’s Presence in our lives.
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
So, let the journey begin! Begin today to receive every moment as an invitation to God’s house — God’s heart. Whether the moment comes in darkness or light, joy or sorrow, God is in it – calling.
Poetry: Advent Calendar – Rowan Williams
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like child.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we come to the end of our readings from Revelation. ( I can hear a few of you muttering, “Thank goodness!”) They have been challenging, to say the least.
The passage from Luke’s Gospel today is just as confronting. God is serious about wanting our complete love!
Our prayer over these past few days has led us to deeper understanding of a challenging truth: life as we know it will be transformed and we will be judged at the transformation.
But hopefully our reflections have also assured us that the Master and Judge of Life is the same merciful God who forgave and healed the sinful and suffering.
By our faithfulness to this merciful God, we will be redeemed. Revelation puts it this way:
The servants of God will look upon God’s face, and God’s name will be on their foreheads.
When a person is filled with goodness (or evil), we often say it is “written all over her face”. So it is with those who love and long for God and for God’s peaceable kingdom.
God will recognize us at the judgment because our hope and desire for God are written all over our face. And God’s love for us will be written all over that Divine Countenance as we see it clearly for the first time! And once more, as Catherine McAuley might say, “Oh what a joy, even to think of it!”
Poetry: In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was the Poet Laureate of England during much of Queen Victoria’s reign. A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplace in the English language, including “Nature, red in tooth and claw” (“In Memoriam A.H.H.”), “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all”, “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die”, “My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure”, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, “Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers”, and “The old order changeth, yielding place to new”. He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Below is the first section of the poem. It is a requiem for the poet’s beloved Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly, aged 22. It contains some of Tennyson’s most accomplished lyrical work, and is an unusually sustained exercise in lyric verse. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest poems of the 19th century. (Wikipedia)
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.
Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
What seem'd my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
If you would like to read the entire poem, follow this link:
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84, a praise and pilgrimage hymn.
It is a perfect prayer for us if we have any small sense of alienation, loss, or confusion in our own pilgrimage.
And, honestly, who doesn’t!?
Even in the best of times, life can be a twist! And in “pandemic” times, politically charged times, economically shaky times??? Never a better time to say, “God help us!”
But Psalm 84 orients us. It announces what the journey is really about … the desire to find a resting place in God. Once we realize that, the road slowly straightens with the power of faith.
In Psalm 84, the pilgrim’s heart, hungry for God, sets out on the spiritual journey.
My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
There can be a deep trust in our journeying heart because “even the sparrow” finds a home in God’s tender care.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young– Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my king and my God!
The secret, though, is constancy.:
We pilgrims must stay with the essence of our journey – the deep desire for God.
We must listen to scripture’s “directions” about where God dwells – with the poor, humble, and merciful.
We must not let the flashy road signs of the “Me Culture” distract us.
“The Narcissism Epidemic,” by psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell studies the increase of narcissism or “me-ism” in our culture. Here’s an excerpt:
Although these seem like a random collection of current trends, all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking. Standards have shifted, sucking otherwise humble people into the vortex of granite countertops, tricked-out MySpace pages, and plastic surgery. A popular dance track repeats the words “money, success, fame, glamour” over and over, declaring that all other values have “either been discredited or destroyed.”
Let’s pray today for “staying power”. We have been given the grace to seek God in our lives. Let’s dwell in that seeking, moving from strength to strength in any twists life tosses in front of us.
Blessed they who dwell in your house! continually they praise you. Blessed are we whose strength you are! They go from strength to strength.
Poetry: The Journey – Tagore
The morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; and the flowers were all merry by the roadside; and the wealth of gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds while we busily went on our way and paid no heed.
We sang no glad songs nor played; we went not to the village for barter; we spoke not a word nor smiled; we lingered not on the way.
We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by. The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon.
The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, and I laid myself down by the water and stretched my tired limbs on the grass.
My companions laughed at me in scorn; they held their heads high and hurried on; they never looked back nor rested; they vanished in the distant blue haze. They crossed many meadows and hills, and passed through strange, far-away countries.
All honor to you, heroic host of the interminable path! Mockery and reproach pricked me to rise, but found no response in me.
I gave myself up for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation —in the shadow of a dim delight.
The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom slowly spread over my heart. I forgot for what I had traveled, and I surrendered my mind without struggle to the maze of shadows and songs.
At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, I saw thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. How I had feared that the path was long and wearisome, and the struggle to reach thee was hard!
Music: How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place – Jesuit Music
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Responsorial Verse captures the essence of all the readings:
It’s one of those scripture passages that makes one want to say, “Oh, really? Is that all?”
Because, you know, it’s a pretty tall order to remain faithful until death. Sometimes it’s a real pinch to remain faithful for a week!
Remember that exercise bike you bought in January 2020? Yeah, that one with your yoga pants, umbrella, and assorted tote bags hanging on it.
Or what about that South Beach diet book you’re using to prop open the closet door? How did all that faithfulness work out?
So, given our very human condition, what is the “faithfulness” these readings enjoin?
Rather, it tries. When it does fail, it believes in and seeks forgiveness. It trusts, even in its weakness. It is grateful, abiding, and loving. It is not afraid to begin again and again, because our faithfulness depends on God’s mercy not our strength.
When we were young nuns making our final vows, this phrase was part of our commitment:
“… and to persevere, until death …”
One of our wise leaders, Mother Bernard, told us, “Don’t pray for final perseverance. Pray to be worthy of it.”
I think we become worthy of perseverance by that trusting faithfulness which turns again and again into Mercy’s waiting, understanding arms. It is a faithfulness that fully believes these words from the Book of Lamentations:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; so great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 22-23
Poetry: What God Hath Promised – Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) was born in Vineland, NJ. Incapacitated by severe arthritis, she started composing religious poetry, and became “a renowned writer across the Christian world.” Her popular poems include He Giveth More Grace and Christmas Carols, which were published in Christian Endeavour World and Sunday School Times. (Wikipedia)
God hath not promised skies always blue, Flower strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day, Rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Westminster Abbey
This is probably not the most perfect rendition of this beautiful hymn, but I just love seeing all these various people singing their praise. Imagine all of the stories and histories of faith woven through this worshipping congregation — and each one of them grateful for God’s faithfulness. As Catherine McAuley would say, “Oh what a joy even to think of it!”
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are struck, once again, with Revelation’s images of the end time!
a crowned Christ wielding a sharp sickle
angels commanding the final harvest of the earth
and perhaps the most powerful
the earth’s vintage thrown into the great winepress of God’s fury!
This author could write! We can almost imagine the scene, filmed with all the pyro-technics of today’s computer age.
In Biblical symbolism, the winepress almost always stands for judgment. The passage reminds us that we all will be judged. The divine winepress will compress the sinful gaps that plague our human existence. In the end time, there will be no “other” — no judgmental spaces separating us from one another. We will all be one, like wine mingled.
We will be judged on how we lived that oneness in this life, on where we have stood in the worldly gap between the:
rich and poor
well and sick
citizen and refugee
abled and disabled
powerful and vulnerable
The questions for us as we pray today amy be these:
Do we live in ignorance or indifference to those who suffer on the other side of the human scale?
Have we been impervious to the imbalances of justice and charity in this world?
And how do we respond?
The passage suggests that we do some weeding of our spiritual gardens before the harvest of our souls. The intention of this fiery writer is to tell us that we still have a little time to do so.
Poetry: Barnfloor and Winepress – Gerard Manley Hopkins
And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? 2 Kings VI: 27
Thou that on sin's wages starvest, Behold we have the joy in harvest: For us was gather'd the first fruits, For us was lifted from the roots, Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore, Scourged upon the threshing-floor; Where the upper mill-stone roof'd His head, At morn we found the heavenly Bread, And, on a thousand altars laid, Christ our Sacrifice is made!
Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes, We shout with them that tread the grapes: For us the Vine was fenced with thorn, Five ways the precious branches torn; Terrible fruit was on the tree In the acre of Gethsemane; For us by Calvary's distress The wine was racked from the press; Now in our altar-vessels stored Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.
In Joseph's garden they threw by The riv'n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry: On Easter morn the Tree was forth, In forty days reach'd heaven from earth; Soon the whole world is overspread; Ye weary, come into the shade.
The field where He has planted us Shall shake her fruit as Libanus, When He has sheaved us in His sheaf, When He has made us bear his leaf. - We scarcely call that banquet food, But even our Saviour's and our blood, We are so grafted on His wood.
Music: The Day Is Surely Drawing Near – written by the prolific 16th century Lutheran hymnist Bartholomaüs Ringwaldt. This piece is a majestic instrumental rendering, but if you would like to see the words, they are below.
1 The day is surely drawing near When Jesus, God’s anointed, In all His power shall appear As judge whom God appointed. Then fright shall banish idle mirth, And flames on flames shall ravage earth As Scripture long has warned us.
2 The final trumpet then shall sound And all the earth be shaken, And all who rest beneath the ground Shall from their sleep awaken. But all who live will in that hour, By God’s almighty, boundless pow’r, Be changed at His commanding.
3 The books are opened then to all, A record truly telling What each has done, both great and small, When he on earth was dwelling, And ev’ry heart be clearly seen, And all be known as they have been In thoughts and words and actions.
4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord And sought but carnal pleasures, Who here despised His precious Word And loved their earthly treasures! With shame and trembling they will stand And at the judge’s stern command To Satan be delivered.
5 My Savior paid the debt I owe And for my sin was smitten; Within the Book of Life I know My name has now been written. I will not doubt, for I am free, And Satan cannot threaten me; There is no condemnation!
6 May Christ our intercessor be And through His blood and merit Read from His book that we are free With all who life inherit. Then we shall see Him face to face, With all His saints in that blest place Which He has purchased for us.
7 O Jesus Christ, do not delay, But hasten our salvation; We often tremble on our way In fear and tribulation. O hear and grant our fervent plea; Come, mighty judge, and make us free From death and ev’ry evil.