New (first draft) wedding hymn

Well, here’s something. This time the challenge came through twitter (rather than facebook).  The challenge was for a wedding hymn to the tune of Jerusalem (so as to avoid actually singing Jerusalem – which, given the wedding that gave rise to the conversation was in Wales, didn’t seem all that appropriate!).  The most observant of you will spot that I’ve used the second verse tune for both verses (the difference is in the rhythm of the penultimate line).

Here’s my first stab at it, with various people’s suggestions for improvement incorporated (for which many thanks!) – further suggestions are very welcome!

Freely we give, and freely share
All that we have, and all we are,
Our pledge to cherish and embrace,
Made through this covenant of grace.
With soul and body intertwined,
We give ourselves, in heart and mind,
to deeper union day by day,
and walk in step along life’s way.

[Alternative less personal first verse:
Freely to give, and freely share All that we have, and all we are,
A pledge to cherish and embrace, Made through this covenant of grace.
With soul and body intertwined, two lives together, heart and mind,
in deeper union day by day, will walk in step along life’s way.]

Kindle a flame both bright and bold,
Out of the earth bring purest gold,
Turn all our water into wine,
Teach us new songs of joy divine!
Give us your patience, make us kind,
Increase our faith that we may find
that in true love, good Lord, we pray,
we’ll walk together all life’s way.

Loving the unlovely: sermon starter for Lent 2 (Luke 13.31-end)

The various run-ins between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees are some of the most unlovely encounters in the gospels, full of threats, traps, accusations, petty jealousy… But they’re only one element in a whole bunch of stuff that makes Jerusalem seem a very unlovely place.

With a very unlovely history.  Anyone who knows their Old Testament will remember the stories about prophets being, at best, ignored, and at worst, persecuted and killed for speaking the word of God.  Elijah being pursued by Jezebel is just the best known.  God’s most faithful servants and spokesmen always suffered for their calling.

We might also recognise something of the parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard; Jesus certainly sees Jerusalem as, “The city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.”

Nothing about Jerusalem in the gospels seems lovable.  And yet Jesus loves it and its people, feeling as a parent does about a wayward child – loving, frustrated, desperate even… Jesus’ love for Jerusalem is a love that takes him to the cross, but it is also a love that is ultimately stronger than death.

God’s love for that which seems unlovely is awe-inspiring. Loving that which seems unlovely is a hallmark of Godliness, and if we ourselves can learn to look around us and at one another through the eyes of God then we rejuvenate the divine image within us.

Thursday’s Love Life Live Lent action challenges us to love the unloveliest parts of our neighbourhood enough to tidy them up.  Like a God who came into one of the darkest, most difficult parts of the world in order to bring his light right into the heart of where it was needed.

Saturday’s action asks us whether we love our friends enough to put the emotional energy into keeping in touch, rather than relying on them to make the first move. The incarnation shows that God does not insist that we make the first move in keeping in touch with him, but is always more ready to listen than we are to pray.

Friday’s action demands that we love ourselves enough to dare to disrupt our habits and give ourselves the chance for new life and new experiences. 

Learning to pour love into places and people, and learning to love ourselves, is generous, and it is Godly.  This is a good challenge to rise to.  But for me, this reading overwhelmingly reassures me that even in my most unlovely moments, God is still my heavenly Father, and still longs to gather me, like a mother hen protecting her chicks.