I haven’t written anything for a while and usually when I select a hymn to consider, it comes from a long list that I collected back in 2014 when I started this little project. But today I find myself thinking about something I heard in the sermon at church this morning. Today our minister suggested that we ask ourselves what the concept of the “Good News” means to our lives – how we face the world, make our choices, live our lives in the scope of that idea. Obviously I was at a Christian church service and the words good news have certain connotations, but today that wasn’t exactly the focus. We were challenged not only to consider how our beliefs guide our actions, but to answer the question as to what our beliefs actually are. We were challenged to make decisions and choices that emerge from our own understanding of this thing called the “Good News” in a world where to abdicate that responsibility increasingly results in a life driven by market forces. I found that interesting. This wasn’t the standard platitude about saving the world or spreading one’s own gospel, this was about taking responsibility for our beliefs.
Maybe I’m reading more into the sermon than was intended, but I found this refreshing. This requirement to be active and questioning. To look beyond what’s laid out for us by others. I sometimes find myself searching for a way to reconcile the specifics of my Mennonite/Christian heritage with a deep belief that the Divine can be found in many ways and many places. With many names, many expressions and many understandings. God is simply not as small as the limits of our imagination.
This brought me to a hymn that is often used as a gathering hymn; a song intended to bring us into a state of worship. The words were written in 1729 by Gerhard Tersteegen, a lay minister in Holland who wrote a number of hymns and was a mystic influenced by the writings of, among others, Teresa of Avila. I was drawn to these words because they speak to the presence of the Divine; to the influence of this presence on our lives.
God is here among us; let us all adore him,
and with awe appear before him.
God is here within us; soul, in silence fear him,
humbly, fervently draw near him.
Now his own who have known God in worship lowly yield their spirits wholly.
Gladly we surrender earth’s deceitful treasures,
pride of life, and sinful pleasures.
Gladly, Lord, we offer this to be forever,
soul and life and each endeavour.
Thou alone shalt be known Lord of all our being, life’s true way decreeing.
What I like about these words is the implication that belief and life are inseparable. Whatever we choose to believe is completely defined by its application. The choice made becomes so foundational, that all of life’s truths are decreed as a result. It’s kind of awe inspiring and terrifying all at once. That what we choose to believe and base our values on can be the strength that guides our daily lives is a beautiful comfort. That we must make those choices wisely is daunting. But I am left with the idea that how we live is a reflection of these choices. Always. And when our beliefs and actions don’t match, something outside of ourselves and our beliefs is guiding our way. Market forces, maybe. Other people, possibly. So, whatever you choose to believe, live it fully, honestly and with joy. Allow the belief to be present and active. Because this life is a gift, and to me that is good news.