The world is charged with the grandeur of God*
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Lord, we thank you for the glory of springtime, when the golden gorse blossoms on the sides of Arthur’s Seat, when Princes Street Gardens are transformed into a sea of green, when each day is longer and brighter than the one before. It is not hard, when the sun shines out across the spires of Edinburgh, to believe that we live in the dawn of new creation, when “old things have passed away, and all things have become new.” For your glory refracted in every flower, every sunrise, in the waves of the Firth of Forth and the cliffs of Salisbury Crags, we thank you. For every good and perfect gift, which we take for granted; for everything that is going right in the world, which we somehow think it tactless to dwell upon, we thank you. Make us mindful of your presence and your grace at all times, even when they are not so obvious; but at least do not let us ever be so callous as to ignore your grandeur when it flames out so blindingly as it does each Easter season.
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod
Lord, we confess that each one of us has turned inward upon ourselves. How rarely we look outward to admire your handiwork, instead of gazing, ever unsatisfied, on our own; how rarely we look outward to see the faces and needs of others, the bearers of your glory, instead of brooding on our own problems and desires! We bend everyone and everything into the instruments of our own projects; we manipulate our family and friends in a hundred subtle ways; we treat the world around us as so much raw material for us to consume to suit our pleasure, or remake or unmake to make our lives a fraction more convenient. The evil that we see and deplore on a national and global scale—of bankers for whom the pursuit of money has become a self-justifying end that knows no end, of politicians for whom the truth and the common good are values so frequently traded for short-term gains that they have lost all meaning, of tyrants and war profiteers for whom violence is a way of life, of an earth straining under the weight of our demands, reeling from our daily depredations on soil, sea, and sky—is merely the selfishness of our own hearts writ large. Lord, have mercy upon us.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Blessed are you, our God, Redeemer, for you have had mercy upon us; you have not left us trapped within ourselves, cut off from one another and from you. For you, O God, were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself, and you have given us the Spirit of reconciliation. For the reconciling work of Christ, we thank you, and pray that you bring it to completion in each one of our lives. For the reconciling work of this church in the power of the Spirit, we thank you, and we pray that you would advance it through the preaching of the Word, through worship, through service, through fellowship, and in every new endeavour we undertake. For the reconciling work that you have tasked each one of us with, we pray for your grace to carry it forward. May the love of Christ compel us to turn out of ourselves and become part of the new creation of which you have invited us to be a part, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again. Reconciled to you, may we be agents of your reconciling, recreating work to a world gone stale and dark—to the needy right in front of us, in our church and our streets, to friends or family estranged from us or from you, to nations and men in power deaf to your word and to the cry of the oppressed, and to the voiceless victims of our preoccupations, in the creation around us. Make us ready for the dawn that awaits this groaning world, when your grandeur will flame out for all to see.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.**
(Composed for St. Paul’s and St. George’s Church; 22 April 2012. Sermon passage: 2 Cor. 5:12-6:2)
* The poem used here is “The Grandeur of God,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
** For all you liturgical police out there—I recognize that this is the Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Easter, not the 3rd. However, it fit the sermon passage so well that I decided to disregard calendrical propriety.