Saturday, June 16, 2018

"Fresh Every Morning"

               This Sunday (June 17th), we begin our summer sermon series, which is built around hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal.  Earlier in May, we asked members of the Christ United Methodist congregation to share their 3 favorite hymns and to tell us why these particular hymns were especially meaningful to them.  A total of 64 hymns were lifted up as favorites. 

            We are taking the top 8 hymns and focusing on one hymn for each of the next 8 Sunday’s of the summer.  Our sermons will focus on each of these hymns and the scripture which undergirds and grounds that particular hymn.  We begin the series this Sunday with the hymn, “Morning has Broken.”  This hymn’s lyrics go like this:

“Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

“Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

“Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise ev'ry morning
God's recreation of the new day”[1]
            The lyrics to “Morning has Broken” were written by Eleanor Farjeon, an English poet and children’s author.  She wrote the hymn in response to a request that she write lyrics giving thanks for each new day, which could be set to the Scottish tune, “Bunessan.”  The song was originally published in 1931.  In her other writings, Farjeon was the creator of the Mary Pippin series of children’s stories.  Born on February 13, 1881, Eleanor Farjeon came from a very literary family.  Her father was a novelist and two of her brothers were also authors.  Although her father was Jewish, Farjeon converted to Catholicism in 1951. 

            The United Methodist Hymnal lists Lamentations 3: 22-23 as scriptural foundation for “Morning has Broken.”  In this third chapter of Lamentations, we encounter a different speaker from the first two chapters.  This speaker is a “strong man;” perhaps a soldier who is committed to defending women, children, and innocent persons.  Just as previous speakers in Lamentations, this “strong man” has survived catastrophe.  As Kathleen O’Connor, a scriptural scholar, writes:  “The strong man is hopeful, reliant on theological traditions of divine mercy, and confident that  Yahweh has seen his suffering.  His arrival at hope, however, is through a convoluted journey, a tortured struggle, in which hope is asserted in the face of contradictory experience.”[2]

            Chapter 3 opens with the speaker lamenting how God has turned against him:

I am one who has seen affliction
   under the rod of God’s wrath; 
he has driven and brought me
   into darkness without any light; 
against me alone he turns his hand,
   again and again, all day long.  (Lamentations 3:1-3)

            Yet, after 20 verses of lamenting that God’s anger and wrath torment him, suddenly the strong man’s outlook is reversed.  He remembers God’s steadfast love and mercy.  This restores his hope and confidence.  In verses 22-23, the strong man re-claims God’s love –and then addresses God directly:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

This is a powerful theological reflection.  The strong man affirms that even when God seems to have turned away from him, God’s love is still constant; still present.  Even in the strong man’s darkest nights of the soul, God’s love and mercy come again, new and fresh in the morning.  Eleanor Farjeon captures the power and assurance of God’s love coming new and fresh every morning.  I especially appreciate these lines from her hymn,

“Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise ev'ry morning
God's recreation of the new day”

If you live in the Lincoln, Nebraska area and do not have a place of worship, then I invite you to come and join us at Christ United Methodist Church this Sunday, June 17th.  In addition to reflecting on “Morning has Broken,” we will also celebrate Father’s Day, as we recognize and give thanks for our fathers—as well as others who have been like fathers to us.  Christ UMC is located at 4530 “A” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Our two traditional Worship Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday morning. 

Come, join us.  Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.

[1] The United Methodist Hymn, No. 145.

[2] Kathleen O’Connor, Commentary on Lamentations in the New Interpreter’s Bible, vol 6, (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2002), CD-ROM Edition.

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