Trust is on my mind these days. Apparently, I'm not alone in wondering who to trust, as we grapple with considerable coincident crises, crises of health, economics, racial division and inequity, climate change. Science, politicians, media, election processes, institutional religion, law enforcement are all being questioned, against the background noise of what some call fake news, untruths and alternative facts. We never know what's around the corner, but Covid-tide is a season of heightened anxiety fueled by uncertainty about what, who and how we can trust.
That has led me to think about all the ways that scripture calls us to trust. Easier said than done. The psalms, in a number of places, offer a variation of the following verse: Put not your trust in rulers or in any child of earth, for there is no help in them. (Psalm 146:3) Maybe you're thinking about trust these days as well. Apparently, a lot of people are. If so, join me in working through a few questions guided by Rev. Jay Sidebotham and Jürgen Moltmann:
1. Where do you draw strength? Asked another way: What are reliable sources of nourishment and sustenance for the journey? We live in a world offering lots of spiritual junk food, easy to swallow but not what we really need, not ultimately sustaining. We give our hearts to that which does not satisfy our hearts. It's especially tough when so many Christian leaders reveal the hypocrisy of the church, nothing new under the sun. As one of those church leaders, when I hear the reasonable, verifiable complaint that the church is just filled with hypocrites, all I can say is, "Guilty as charged." Then I revert to the prayer that both sustains and frightens me: "Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me." (Psalm 69:7) What would it mean to draw strength from the God who calls us into relationship?
2. Where do you place your hope? Asked another way: In whom do you place hope? The old hymn affirms: We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. In many ways, we find ourselves in the midst of storms. Life these days feels like those small glass snow domes that get all shook up. We're waiting for things to settle. Hoping. Jurgen Moltmann based his theology on hope. In a paper called The Spirit of Hope: Theology For A World In Peril, Moltmann wrote (pre-covid): "Terrorist violence, social and economic inequality, and most especially the looming crisis of climate change all contribute to a cultural moment of profound despair." Moltmann reminds us that Christian faith has much to say in response to a despairing world. In "the eternal yes of the living God," we affirm the goodness and ongoing purpose of our fragile humanity. What would it mean to embrace the text of the hymn (#665 in the 1982 Hymnal) "All my hope on God is founded," music written by Herbert Howells after the death of his 9 year-old son?
3. Where do you give your heart? Asked another way: What's love got to do with it? As our Presiding Bishop reminds us, it all boils down to love. If it isn't about love, it isn't about God. Ultimately our trust is an expression of the heart, an expression of love. As in any committed relationship, love is based on the trust that partners seek the best for each other. They seek to honor each other, with all they are and have. More Moltmann: "God's love empowers us to love life and resist a culture of death." What would it mean, in a vindictive season, to let love be our guide in some new and deeper way this week, not giving into fear or fretting but figuring out some way to make it all about love?
As people of faith, we are called to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, confident that God will direct our paths." (A riff on Proverbs 3:5,6) In case you haven't picked it up already, I'm finding that challenging. It's presumptuous of me to suggest a solution, as I navigate a cloud of unknowing. But here's the answer I've decided to go with. I'm going to literally and figuratively take a deep breath and trust that the God of love has the whole world in his hands.
The ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for. What is it that awaits us? Does anything await us at all, or are we alone? Whenever we base our hope on trust in the divine mystery, we feel deep down in our hearts: there is someone who is waiting for you, who is hoping for you, who believes in you. We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father. We are accepted and received, as a mother takes her children into her arms and comforts them. God is our last hope because we are God's first love."
-Jürgen Moltmann from "The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life."
October Hymn of the Month – by Beth Kerzee
When We Are Living (Pues Si Vivimos)
Mexican folk hymn, and Roberto Escamilla
“Pues Si Vivimos”
Pues si vivimos, para El vivimos When we are living, it is in Christ Jesus,
y si morimos para El morimos. And when we’re dying, it is in the Lord.
Sea que vivamos o que muramos, Both in our living and in our dying,
Somos del Señor, somos del Señor. We belong to God, we belong to God.*
This gentle and assuring Mexican folk hymn has quickly become a favorite song in both Spanish and English-speaking churches in a variety of denominations. To date it has been published in over thirteen denominational hymnals or songbooks. While this hymn is lovely in its simplicity of melody and message, its origin is a bit more complicated. The first stanza was recorded and transcribed by Gertrude Suppe, after meeting a Mexican woman in Los Angeles following a worship service. Roberto Escamilla, editor of Celebremos II [A collection intended to incorporate more Mexican American songs into worship], added three additional verses in Spanish. These words were translated into English by George Lockwood, thereby creating the hymn as we know it today. Robert Escamilla is a native of Hidalgo, Mexico, and has served many United Methodist churches in Texas and Oklahoma, both Spanish and English-speaking. He has a distinguished career as a pastor and a teacher that has spanned decades
This hymn’s first stanza references Romans 14:8 and as we can see it follows the biblical text very closely.
“If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (NRSV).
The meaning is clear that whether living of dying, we are not alone, we belong to God. Furthermore, it reminds us of the resurrection promise and heritage that is ours because Christ died for us and lives again. What an amazing assurance that is for all Christians, and what a great reminder we
need every day!
Stanzas 2-4, written by Dr. Escamilla, are based more loosely on John 15:8, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” He continues the technique of binary opposition begun in the first stanza, which uses “living or dying.” Stanza two centers on our lives and
how we are to live it and finishes by contrasting “giving or receiving.” Stanza three centers on our human feelings of joy and sadness and concludes with contrasting “suffering and rejoicing.” The final stanza looks outward to the whole world and a Christian’s response to the needs of humanity. The
contrast here is “help or nurture,” which is not actually a contrast, but two ways to serve a hurting world. While this hymn didn’t start out being a four-stanza theological stance on the way a follower of Jesus Christ believes and acts, it was nevertheless developed into a concise statement doing just
BLANKET THE BIG BEND REGION WITH LOVE
The Big Bend Blanket Ministry (created by our own Kerie van Zeÿst), based in Far West Texas, comes together to provide blankets to people in rural areas along the Borderland. If you would like to donate a blanket to those in need they are $20 each for thick cotton blend blankets. Our first 2020 distribution will be in October. With the COVID-19 pandemic and high unemployment our shelters are full and it is more important than ever to get as many blankets out those in need as possible this winter. If you know of anyone in need of a blanket or would like to donate a blanket please let us know! To contribute, put cash in an envelope marked "Blanket" at leave it the collection plate at St. Paul's or write a check to St. Paul's with 'Blanket' in the memo section or go to PayPal.me/StPaulsMarfa and put "Blanket" in the note. THANK YOU!