Thursday, October 22, 2009

A strange clarity

Last Sunday we broke the pattern in morning worship. Midway through the service, half the congregation left to walk the neighborhood, collecting food for a community pantry.

Those of us who stayed behind listened as three of our members spoke of local needs. Jon talked from his perspective as coordinator of Love Inc, a network of churches that provides various resources to meet human need. Karen, a high school principal, spoke on the needs of young people and how these reflect the conditions of families in our area. We especially considered the situation of undocumented Hispanics. Finally, Edith shared from her experience as a Native American. All of this comes from our desire as a congregation to make a difference in our community.

I noted one moment of incongruity in the service. In opening worship we sang an old hymn that I’ve always loved, “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.” But part of this hymn struck me as awkward, perhaps because it reflects awkward theology. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” we sang. “Look full in his wonderful face” (so far so good, but here comes the ify part), “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

The “strange dimness” bothered me, and I could not sing that line. I understand the background, the thought of being “in but not of the world.” Kingdom values do demand a certain separation from the values and norms of the surrounding social context. And I know there are mystical moments of worship when everything—but the face of Jesus—fades away. But these are moments, not a life style.

Our purpose that morning was to see, understand and be moved by the needs in our community. This does not imply an either/or choice—choosing to see either Jesus or the neighborhood. Shouldn’t a sincere adoration and love for God lead to a love of neighbor? Shouldn’t worship flow out into mission?

I wanted to re-write this otherwise lovely old song. As we “look full in his wonderful face, the things (people) of earth will grow strangely clear, in the light of his glory and grace.”

Lord, give us your perspective. Enable us to see you more clearly, love you better and, in the light of this vision, see the world around us through your eyes. Amen. Yes.

1 comment:

  1. I also have always had trouble with the "dimness" aspect of this hymn and generally grow quiet at that part. I love your substitution for "clear" and will use that from now on!