URC Daily Devotion: 15th February

Hymn: The Love of God is Broad Like Beach & Meadow
Anders Frostensen (b1906) translated by Fred Kaan (b 1929) 
Rejoice and Sing 108

The love of God is broad like beach and meadow,
wide as the wind, and an eternal home.
God leaves us free to seek him or reject him,
he gives us room to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

The love of God is broad like beach and meadow,
wide as the wind, and an eternal home.

We long for freedom where our truest being
is given hope and courage to unfold.
We seek in freedom space and scope for dreaming,
and look for ground where trees and plants may grow.

But there are walls that keep us all divided;
we fence each other in with hate and war.
Fear is the bricks-and-mortar of our prison,
our pride of self the prison coat we wear.

O judge us, Lord, and in your judgment free us,
and set our feet in freedom’s open space;
Take us as far as your compassion wanders
among the children of the human race.

This Swedish hymn by Anders Frosensen was written in the 1960s and was well known in Scandanavian churches when Fred Kaan translated it into English and had it published in 1974.  

3 John

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely, how you walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you;  they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God;  for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers.  Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Everyone has testified favourably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink;  instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.

Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name.

Reflection

I have no idea who first said: “the pictures are better on the radio”, but I quite agree with the sentiment.   This deceptively simple hymn is like that in its many meanings – I hesitate to say layers of meaning – discoverable according to the mood we bring to worship and situations the Church and worshippers find themselves in.

Ask yourself: what do you see when the words “beach” or “meadow” are used.   A sandy beach or a pebbly one, or for a Swedish composer a Finnish picture that of the Wounded Angel by Hugo Simberg set on the beach at Töölönlahti Bay?  (below)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg.jpg

<![if !vml]><![endif]>An alpine meadow celebrating the hills alive with the sound of music, or a water meadow of the paintings of Alfred Munnings, or the fertile meadows of the Jezreel Valley?  Now fit some of those images into this hymn:  what aspects of God’s love appear?   The fierce love of God the creator, the stubborn love of God the saviour, the intimate love of God the indwelling spirit, the encouraging love of God the parent, the comforting love of God the brother, or the warming love of “heart of my own heart”?

Now look for the picture in each line: how wide is the wind; what does my eternal home look like?    The elder writing to Gaius has found the ground where trees and plants can grow.

There are disturbing pictures in the third verse – the physical walls of the church making the building frightening to many; the mental walls of “us” the church against “them” the not-church; the emotional walls of “me” against “everything not me”.    The elder, as he wrote to Gaius about Diotrephes, clearly knew the problems of the prison wall of pride.

Then come the considered, challenging or comforting pictures of the final verse.  God’s judgment, always considered; being set in freedom – what a challenge; then the comfort that God takes us.   He sets our feet in the open spaces and takes us.  Takes us!  It is almost impossible to emphasise sufficiently the security that God takes us.  Wherever his challenge to freedom sends, he then takes us.  It might be anywhere among “them” or “not me” – the children of the human race.  Whatever picture that reveals, know first that God takes us: we do not go alone.  

 

Prayer

Lord,
the pictures you give us
are vivid and clear in our minds
but are soon muddied and constrained
by the walls we construct.
Help us to trust you to take us
on the way through life
so that the pictures become vivid,
living realities of freedom in your Kingdom.
Amen 

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire.

Bible Version

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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