Monday, 15 April 2013

Earth's crammed with heaven

Last night at Grace we looked at the old George Herbert hymn, Teach me my God and King in all things thee to see (in fact a poem called The Elixir).  It's part of a monthly series we are doing, trying to mine some of the great old hymns that it is worth modern Christians knowing. I love the contemporary hymns of Getty and Townend and we sing shed loads of them, but to avoid Lewis's chronological snobbery, how important it is that we recognise that we stand on the shoulders of Christians from the past and learn from them.

Teach me my God and King is a great reminder of the whole life discipleship which Mark Greene and LICC so helpfully promote. Or to put it another way, the hymn advocates an everyday spirituality which is at once appealing and challenging.

To ask to have our eyes opened to see God in all of life, whether the beauty of the 'natural' world', or the intricacy of the latest smart phone (designed and made by men and women made in the image of a creator and creative God), is a great prayer to prayer. Verse 2 reminds us of the limitations of looking at the window rather than through the window.

'A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.''

And that is the problem with an entirely naturalistic, 'surface' view of life.  It never looks up and through and beyond the ordinary habits of life, whether eating, sleeping, working, playing or whatever, that there is another unseen reality, an eternal creator God. For many of us we have those occasional transcendent experiences, whether gazing at the ocean or sunset, or going to a cemetery, or walking in the Alps, when all that goes to make  up who we are screams at us that 'there is more'.

This lovely clip from  Shawshank Redemption and the commentary from 'Red' goes someway to explain those in-breakings of the eternal into our bruised and broken world.
But we need eyes to see (and indeed ears to hear). Those multiple 'little' experiences , whether of the kindness of others, the deep satisfaction of a long standing friendship, the joy of a bright Spring morning or the unexpected tears that well up when a certain piece of music is heard, point us to the ultimate kindness, to the unfailing friend, and to the  one who is the 'bright and morning star, and even the one who sings over us (Zephaniah 3.17). To Jesus Christ himself.

In the person of Jesus Christ a hole was made in the fabric of the universe and the invisible God became visible. The barrier between us and Him was broken down, and the death we all face was made a temporary inconvenience only. The payment for our deep seated hostility and independence from God was paid in full in his dying on the cross, and Jesus calls us to follow him, and begin to live eternal life. 

More soon on the other great theme of The Elixir, 'and what I do in anything, to do it as for Thee'.
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