Monday, 29 April 2013

And what I do in anything...

A few further thoughts on the hymn, Teach me my God and King by George Herbert.

Teach me my God and King
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.

Portrait by Robert White 1674 National Gallery
And what I do in anything, to do it as for Thee. Hmm, here is a realistic motivation for living, which can really help the Christian believer facing what may seem to be drudgery. For no life can be lived in a permeant state of high, and every life has shades, peaks and troughs. Herbert presents us  what what he playfully calls the 'famous stone which turneth all to gold'. Here he is musing on the quest so beloved of scientists and alchemists of his time to find the philosophers stone or the elixir. This mythical substance was thought to have the ability to turn base metals like lead and copper, into gold. Of course it remains a mirage.

But what can turn the everyday life of a Christian into something more than mere duty. Herbert argues that if done, 'for thy sake', the possibility is there of finding deep satisfaction and contentment in the lowest of tasks.

All may of Thee partake
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for thy sake)
Will to grow bright and clean

Herbert encourages us that all our actions may benefit from this principle (for thy sake), however insignificant ('mean'), so that it acts like a tincture, (a quality that pervades), and makes any action bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine
Who sweep a room as for thy laws, 
Makes that and th'action fine.

So with for thy sake motivating, even drudgery can become divine, or 'godly'. Even sweeping a room can be a 'consecrated activity'. Surely Herbert is not encouraging us to become odd and rather weirdly 'spiritual'. Rather he is encouraging a whole life discipleship which I have mentioned before and which is so well taught by Mark Green and others at LICC. 
Herbert concludes,

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told

Indeed anything that God touches is certainly as valuable as gold.

And keeping with 17th century language,
'Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all for the glory of God' 1 Cor 10.31
'And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men' Col 3.23






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