A Note for the Summer

A Note for the Summer

Liturgy Lessons: July 1, 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 68:1-5, 19-20, 32-35
Hymn of Adoration: Crown Him with Many Crowns (#295)
Confession: 2 Cor. 5:20-21 and prayer
Assurance of Pardon: Romans 5:6-11
Hymns of Assurance: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness; God of Grace
Catechism/Congregational Prayers
Reading of the Word: Luke 6:27-36
Doxology: #733
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
Supper: What Wondrous Love is This?; Lift High the Cross (#263)
Closing Hymn: Look Ye Saints (#299)

This will be my last liturgy lesson before taking a summer hiatus. These weekly writings will resume again in September. Before taking this break, however, I wanted to give you a word of encouragement by way of a witty little poem by Wendell Berry.

The Vacation
By Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

A poem’s meaning is always itself, so I will not commit the heresy of explanation here. I will, however, riff on his theme by making a broader connection to our worship. The reason this poem strikes us as funny is because there is so much truth in it. I have done pretty much the same thing as the man in the boat. I have been in countless other scenarios filming either my children or some grand scene in nature. There I am, holding my phone or Ipad up to my face, allowing a small screen to block the incredible real life HD of my kids or Mt. Rainier. And I am never in it. Not the video, but the experience of the thing. I am not fully in it.

I lament this loss of presence. I feel the disconnected and distracted fragments of myself wandering from screen to screen, place to place. I am never all there, not in it. It’s as if the composer has set his work before me, and I have just glanced at the thing. I have skimmed the black-and-white markings on the staff, but never got to singing the song. This is looking but not seeing, hearing (or rather over-hearing) but not listening. There is motion in the molecules but never any music.

My desire this summer is to recover that music. To rescue it from the background noise and reclaim it for myself. I need it. It will be found in silence, in rest, in prayer. The theme of it comes to the heart during long walks through the woods and patient stares at my smiling children. I will listen for the hints of it in the strong wind through the trees, forte echoes of the pianissimo in the heart. The Father is singing over his children in the storms and in the stillness. I will catch the tune and then I will hum it back to my wife during a long and uninterrupted embrace.

When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples he said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:20). We are invited into the mystical union of the Triune God. All three tributaries flowing into the same river. The waters of life surging forward toward the sea. Dive in and let the current move you toward the heart of the Father. Leave the boat and camera behind.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Is. 55:1). This is an invitation to an astounding and miraculous truth. Union with Christ is the source of unspeakable joy, fullness, and absolute freedom. God supplies all the riches of His grace to us IN Christ Jesus (Ph. 4:19). And, if any man is IN Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The old noise is gone, the new song has come.

In his poem “Postscript”, Seamus Heaney describes driving out to the coast in the west of Ireland and encountering the timeless and strange beauty of a land unaffected by modern life. He wants to absorb it all, but…

…”Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

My encouragement to you is to abide in Christ this summer. As you travel through the heat of the season, let the “big soft buffetings” of the Holy Spirit come at you not just sideways, but from behind, in front, and all around. This is the wind that carries the cool and refreshing droplets of grace to your soul. Let them soothe the places seared by sin. These mists of mercy are lifted from the surface of the inexhaustible sea of God’s love. It is here where we find the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, and free. It is rolling like a mighty ocean, and it not only “catches the heart off guard and blows it open,” but it redeems the heart that is lost and looking for home. The current of the Father’s love is underneath you, all around you, and it will lift you up to glory. This “love of every love the best” has been deposited into you through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Inhale and breathe deeply so you can be whole and present in all moments, sanctifying the season by making it all one song of praise. Then when you come to church on Sunday and join in the song, you can be fully in it.

I look forward to hearing this reclaimed, restored, and revitalized song in our sanctuary this summer.

I’ll see you at church.