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August 23, 2020

There is a Longing in our Hearts

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Last week’s hymn, “There Is a Balm in Gilead” reminded us we are living in a season of lament.  Today’s hymn, “There is a Longing in Our Hearts” prompts us to realize that, in the midst of lamenting, we are also longing … longing in our hearts to see God’s presence in our midst … longing in our hearts to feel the love only God can give. Today you will hear poetic words of longing … and you will hear the plaintive message of today’s hymn woven within those spoken words.  You are welcome simply to ponder the prayerful text or join your voice in the prayer. There IS a longing in our hearts, O God.

 

REFRAIN:  There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us.

   There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.

 

Sometimes preachers offer what they themselves most need to hear.  As I pondered the longing I sense in the world around me, the longing I perceive fills the hearts of so many these days, the longing I feel in my own heart – I was drawn to the words of poetry.

 

First from the Psalmist in Psalm 84:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the Lord’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God!”

 

In 1958, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote his epic poem, “I am Waiting …” It’s a long, thus epic, poem.  I hear several of his stanzas as words of longing:

 

“ … I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder

 

I am waiting for the Second Coming   

and I am waiting for a religious revival

to sweep thru the state of Arizona   

and I am waiting for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored   

and I am waiting …

to see God on television piped onto church altars

if only they can find   the right channel to tune in on

and I am waiting for the Last Supper to be served again

with a strange new appetizer

and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed   

and I am anxiously waiting for the secret of eternal life to be discovered   

by an obscure general practitioner

and I am waiting for the storms of life to be over

and I am waiting to set sail for happiness

and I am waiting for a reconstructed Mayflower

to reach America with its picture story and tv rights

sold in advance to the natives

and I am waiting for the lost music to sound again

in the Lost Continent in a new rebirth of wonder …

… I am awaiting  Perpetually and forever

A renaissance of wonder.

 

“Lord God, hear our prayer,” says the Psalmist.

 

Stanza 1:

“for justice, for freedom, for mercy, hear our prayer. In sorrow; in grief; be hear; hear our prayer, O God.

REFRAIN:  There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us.

   There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.

 

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts. My heart longs, yay faints to be in your house!”

From poet Mary Oliver, we hear:

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth

instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous

and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and

thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed,

how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

“Lord God, hear our prayer”, says the Psalmist.

 

Stanza 2: For wisdom, for courage, for comfort: hear our prayer. 

In weakness, in fear: be near; hear our prayer, O God.

REFRAIN: There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us.

   There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.

 

“Those who live in your house are truly happy, O God; they praise you constantly.  Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else!”

Our own Terri Hubbard, shares “A Legacy of Faith,” a poem written for Northminster’s 75th anniversary:

 

The call of the future floated soft on the wind

inviting all those who heard it to respond

by joining their hearts as a community of faith

with God’s love the cement in their bond.

 

“Seek all who are searching for answers.

Serve those who need to feel caring hands.

Embrace the past by cherishing its story

and the future where opportunity stands.”

 

One by one, they came forward and answered

by starting a church they would carefully grow. 

Did they know they were writing the history

of the Northminster that we presently know?

 

How would they view our circle of faith today

– those resolute souls who started it all? 

Would they be proud to find it’s stepping up still

and sharing with others the hope in God’s call?

 

“Seek all who are searching for forgiveness. 

Serve them by showing God’s grace in their lives. 

Embrace the dedication of souls of the past

and the challenges on which the future thrives.”

 

For seventy-five years, the story’s been written

(some of the pages now yellowed and torn)

of all those who have loved the same God

since the idea of Northminster was born.

 

When future generations read all about us,

will they cherish the faithful community they see? 

Will they be inspired to step up as children of God? 

Will their commitment be our own legacy?

 

“Seek all who search for light in the darkness.

Serve God by not letting them walk all alone.

Embrace the past for the lessons it teaches

and the future where possibilities are grown.”

 

“Lord God, hear our prayer”, says the Psalmist.

 

Stanza 3:  For healing, for wholeness, for new life: hear our prayer..

In sickness, in death; be hear; hear our prayer, O God.

REFRAIN: There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us.

   There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.

 

“The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory,” says the Psalmist.

 

“Celebration,” written by Indianapolis poet Mari Evans, offers words of deep longing:

 

I will bring you a whole person

and you will bring me a whole person

and we will have twice as much

of love and everything.

 

I be bringing a whole heart;

and while it do have nicks and

dents and scars,

that only make me lay it down

more careful like.

An’ you be bringing a whole heart

a little chipped and rusty an’

sometimes skip a beat but

still an’ all you bringing polish too

and look like you intend

to make it shine.

 

And we be bringing, each of us

the music of ourselves to wrap the other in …

Forgiving clarities

soft as a choir’s last

lingering note our personal blend.

 

I will be bringing you someone whole

And you will be bringing me someone whole

And we be twice as strong

And we be twice as true

And we will have twice as much of love … and everything.

 

“Lord God, hear our prayer.” May it be so. Amen.

 

Stanza 4

Lord save us, take pity, Light in our darkness. 

We call you; we wait: be near; hear our prayer, O God.

REFRAIN: There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us.

   There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.

 

Resources:

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I Am Waiting” from A Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958
  • The poems of Mari Evans – available through The Poetree House: Because good poems need a place to hide out.
  • “A Few Poems by Mary Oliver, William Stafford, and Rita Dove” – available through andreas.com
  • PROCLAIM – a Publication of Northminster Presbyterian Church. Summer 2020.

 

 


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