It has been a strange Easter weekend. Very different from the usual celebrations of family, faith, egg hunts, chocolate and decorations. For those celebrating Passover, it was equally unusual with traditional Seders becoming online affairs, meals shared virtually. This may be a once in lifetime weekend of almost, but not quite, gatherings and tables spread for fewer than expected. But in all of this, I feel blessed. I shared food with friends. I heard my community sing. I spoke with family members. I was able to celebrate in ways that I hadn’t realized were quite so meaningful. I was blessed by these strange interactions, despite circumstances that I wish would disappear. I received much. And I am thankful.
There are some words that, due to overuse and misuse, make me cringe. Awesome (are you really in awe of your specialty coffee beverage?). Amazing (are you really amazed by your specialty coffee beverage?). And, well, blessing (have you really been blessed by your specialty coffee beverage?). Blessing, blessed and blessings, are not words I use often in my day to day life, although I may have used them on occasion over the years of these hymn commentaries. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these words, but I do find it difficult to reconcile the superficial way in which they’ve become part of our lexicon.
And yet, I can’t help feeling that I have experienced some real blessings this past week. It has been a week of hearing from friends, relatives and even strangers that something I said, or did, or wrote, was in some way helpful or meaningful. The blessing is not that I had the wherewithal to do anything, but that there are people in this world who take the time to express gratitude for seemingly small things that have touched their lives. These people are blessings because they require us to acknowledge that how we choose to live is much more significant than we can fully realize.
It all reminded me of this hymn. Written in 1757 by Robert Robinson, a minister who was originally apprenticed to be a hairdresser (perhaps more like indentured, as, from the sounds of things, he was quite poor). He wrote many hymns and apparently ended up with a congregation of over a thousand. This particular hymn is about divine grace.
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it,
mount of God’s redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer,
hither by thy help I’m come,
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wand’ring from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now, like a fetter,
bind my wand’ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
I suppose there are many definitions of what divine grace is, but one that struck me was that the divine within us influences how we behave; how we act, react and interact with those around us. This is not just a Christian concept; many religions and spiritual practices incorporate similar ideas into their understanding of how we are connected. Because we take on whatever we believe, it emerges. Good or bad. This is powerful. We simply do not know in any moment which bits of who we’ve decided to be are floating from us into the world.
I suppose it is easy to say that we decide to be one way or another, and much more difficult to actually adhere to any decision, but I wonder if we have more influence than most of us believe. Perhaps not to influence outcomes or circumstances, but to view this world with lenses crafted by our beliefs. And, consequently, to walk through it with a particular kind of vision.
The words of this hymn are quite expressive. We’re asking to be taught a melodious sonnet, tune our hearts to sing, safely arrive home, be rescued from danger. All these blessings being sourced with our divine. We raise our Ebenezer – the stone of help – and keep our eyes fixed upon it, fettered to it, because we are prone to wander. What a lesson. Whatever we attach ourselves to, whatever we keep in our view will determine who we are, what we do, how we react and what we send out into the world around us.
So, as I reflect on the blessings I received from others this week, I am reminded that who I choose to be is important. Something about my choices resulted in kind words returned to me. I am conscious of how I look at this world, at my life. And how my vision, how I choose to view this world and my place in it, influences my actions. I am grateful for those who made choices to send blessings so I might be both encouraged and reminded of my own accountability. I welcome the blessings. I look for them. And in doing so, it is in deep streams of mercy that I find myself. It is there that I choose to sing.