URC Daily Devotion 23 July 2023

Sunday, 23 July 2023
Psalm 144
O Morning Star, O radiant Sun,
when will our hearts behold your dawn?
O Sun, arise; without your light
we grope in gloom and dark of night.

2 Our lives are frail–a fleeting breath.
We face our foe: the sting of death.
Stretch out your hand, Lord, hold us fast,
until the storms of life are past.

3 O Savior, rend the heavens wide;
come down, come down with mighty stride;
unlock the gates, the doors break down;
unbar the way to heaven’s crown.

4 There shall we all our praises bring
ever to you, our Saviour King;
there shall we praise you and adore
forever and forever more.

vv 1,3, 4 F. von Spee (1591-1635)
v2 Martin Tel (2011) © Faith Alive Chr. Res

You can hear the tune here


Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
from: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
What are the feelings that today’s reading raise within you?  For me there were two contrasting feelings striding hand in hand.
One is of a visceral sense of how bleak and challenging life can be for many of us as “we grope in gloom and dark of night” and struggle with “the storms of life.” How “our lives are frail, a fleeting breath,” and our existence lived under the spectre of our mortality as “we face our foe: the sting of death.”
The other very different feeling is of a shining sense of hope, calling upon the “Morning Star” and “radiant Sun.” Blended within this is proclamation of defiance in the face of life’s woes, calling on our “Saviour King” to come with “mighty stride” to break down doors and “unbar the way to heaven’s crown.”
As I reflected on this rendering of the Psalm, what also came to mind was Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem, “Still I rise.”  In this too she weaves together the despair of life steeped in the history of black slavery with a marvellously defiant sassiness as she rises up from a past that is rooted in pain.  
The crucial message of both ancient Psalm and modern poem is how pain and hope, life and death, suffering and salvation have an integral relationship; how one grows from the other.  When faced with those in despair the answer is not to deny such feelings but to acknowledge and build from them. So that in Angelou’s words:

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Dear God,
In my fleeting breath of life
be with me.
Be with me
during the dark of night
when I grope in gloom.
May your Radiant Sun
make me bold with hope
so that I rise
at your heavenly dawn.


Today’s writer

Professor Graham Handscomb, Member of Christ Church URC Chelmsford.


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

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