My grandmother cross-stitched this beautiful picture of a cat eating a fish (The picture above is someone else’s and thus almost as good). I have been thinking about this quite a bit recently. One of the reasons that I chose to go to Duke was its love of the Church and its appreciation for the Church’s traditions. From an early age I can remember loving the hymns of the Church. Before I learned the beauty of their lyrics, their melodies resonated in my soul and were hummed on my lips. Now that I can appreciate the complicated theology, and even more complicate God they try to communicate, I am left even more awestruck than before-“Oh for a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemers praise…” Truer words would be harder to find. It is this catchiness of the hymns that has always attracted me. There is something powerful about having those words deep in your subconscious and ready for the Spirit to access at a moment’s notice. During time when I have been struggling in my faith, or burdened by things in my life, I have found such comfort in the imperatives-“Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side/ Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain/Trust in thy God to order and provide/ In everything, God’s faithful will remain.”
If you look at the Gospels, you find Jesus plundering the Pslams for his own comfort. In his moment of deepest despair on the cross Jesus cries out the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Surely as Christ said these words, he also remembered the end of the psalm, “For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him” (v.24). This is the beauty of the growing up surrounded and shaped by the words of the Church. When we marinate ourselves in the words of God, and in the psalms of scripture and of the Chruch, we allow God’s Word to take root in us.
There is a latin saying which is fundamental to the Anglican (Episcopal) Church, “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” Which roughly means that the way you pray is the way you believe. So often we pray (or sing, or watch) things which are caustic and altogether unhelpful. I am really bad about getting songs stuck in my head. Sometimes I will hear a song on the radio and, for good or bad, I will be singing it in my head all day. This is how we work. Therefore, we need to be judicious with what we allow in. Now I am not advocating for only listening to “Christian” music (because most of that is not that interesting to begin with), instead I am advocating being judicious. More than music, however, we need to be careful where we get information. The cable news channels which spit out partisan hate, so often get into our subconscious psyches as much as the lyrics to a new pop song. If all we hear is how the other party is trying to destroy our country, or is helping terrorists, we might actually begin to believe that someone is inherently bad because of the box they checked next to political party. My friend was telling me about a sermon she had heard the other day and how her pastor had used blatant liberal rhetoric in his sermon. This is unacceptable. When our secular, partisan rhetoric becomes indistinguishable to the rhetoric of love and reconciliation which is embodied in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is a problem.
Let’s pray this day for those who have the ear of the public that they will tone down their language, and let us also commit ourselves to filling our minds with the words of the Church and the Word of God, so that it takes root in us and drives out all of the darkness with which we so often are filled.