Monthly Archives: September 2019

Musing: Be Merciful

Shadows on Path. Photo: TLClark, 9/15/19.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

“Happy the kind — because they shall find kindness.”

– Matthew 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (merciful/mercy) and Young’s Literal Translation (kind/kindness)

I’ve been humming a song off and on since worship Sunday morning. Every once in awhile I sing a few words of the refrain: “So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.” It’s a newish hymn – published in 2015 – by Ed Bolduc. The tune is new and the refrain is new. But the verses are from a hymn first published in 1854: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick W. Faber.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in [God’s] justice, Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.

– Frederick W. Faber, “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” stanzas 1, 5

According to Hymnary.org, one version or another of Faber’s hymn has been published in at least 757 hymnals. Faber’s other famous hymn – “Faith of Our Fathers” – shows up in at least 728.

From what I can see there were at 12 stanzas in the original “There’s a Wideness to God’s Mercy.” Different folks mix and match the stanzas into verses (typically two per verse), usually leaving out a few. There are, of course, several different tunes to which it can be sung – which is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to my confusion when leading worship in a new (to me) place!

I began this blogpost thinking about mercy – hence the beatitude at the top – and was delighted to discover Young’s Literal Translation of kindness. The dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament lists both mercy and compassion as suitable translations. Whatever word we use, we are called to be merciful / kind / compassionate in response to God’s mercy / kindness / compassion.

So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.
Be merciful, just as our God is merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy.
Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.

Ed Bolduc, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy / Be Merciful,” Refrain (c) 2015. World Library Publications.

My you know mercy, compassion and kindness.
May you be merciful, compassionate, kind.
Teressa

p.s. Here’s a link (I hope!) to a video of the Bolduc’s version. Enjoy!

Photo Challenge: Focus

Barbed Wire, Neumann Ranch, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/2012.

I was eager to play with my camera in response to the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Focus. But rain one day and wind the next made focusing more of a challenge than I cared to attempt. I perused my digital photography files instead.

The barbed wire photo was a surprise! I took pictures rather than help Dad water the garden at the Neumann Ranch that day. There are other fence pictures in the batch none that fit the challenge so well.

Wild Plum and Leaf, Neumann Ranch, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/16/2012.

Picking wild plums is a fond memory of my childhood. In a good year there were more than enough plums to eat your fill and fill-up a bucket so Mom could make plum jelly. It was fun to find plums ripe enough to pick six years ago when back for a visit.

Wheat, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/26/2008.

While I live in corn and soybean country these days, the grain grown where I grew up was wheat. I remember wishing I had more time to try again after reviewing the wheat pictures I took there more than a decade ago. Nevertheless this particular one seems to fit the challenge: a few heads of grain in focus, the rest caught in the wind.

Musing: Potter and Clay

Molding Clay. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

– Jeremiah 18:3-6 NRSV
Creating Bowl. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

Pastor Dave’s sermon Sunday was drawn from Jeremiah 18:1-11 and left me thinking about how we are molded and formed in life. The people around us shape us for good or for ill. The conversations in which we engage nudge our thinking one way or another. The books we read, the shows we watch, the music we listen to – it all plays a role in making us who we are.

Shaping the Vessel. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

The text and the sermon reminded me of pictures I took at the Iowa State Fair in August. Jim Miller of Blue House Pottery demonstrated how to throw clay and mold various vessels. (To learn more about Blue House Pottery or to see finished work click here.)

Stretching the Vessel. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

As I cropped the pictures I was focused on the hands that were doing the molding. What you can’t see – except in the second to last picture below – is how the potter’s attention was fully focused on the clay as it was being formed into a vessel.

Imagine, if you will, God’s full attention focused on you and your people. How might God be forming and reforming the vessel that is your community?

Forming the Base for a Large Vase. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me:
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

“Spirit of the Living God” by Daniel Iverson (1926)
Forming the Top of Large Vase. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

The potter in these pictures is working on one vessel at a time. More often than not, I think of God the potter shaping one person (me!) at a time. But the Biblical text is about God forming a people, a community, a nation. It is in relationships with God and with others that we (the clay!) are formed in faith, learn to be be faithful, and practice faithfulness.

Measuring. Photo: TLClark, 8/13/19.

Yet, O Lord, you are our [Parent];
 we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

– Isaiah 64:8 NRSV