Preparing for Worship – Scott Spreier.
There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.
How those words bring back memories of Sunday night services in the tiny rural Presbyterian church in which I grew up. Near to the Heart of God was one of the old favorites we often sang with passion, even elderly Marion Raser, whose off-key rendition brought giggles from the kids and eye rolling from the grownups.
In retrospect, and now an elderly worshiper myself, I understand the old man’s fondness for the hymn, with its lilting melody, soothing words and prayerful petition for shelter and solace. It’s not surprising that the hymn’s creator, Cleland Boyd McAfee, a Presbyterian theologian, wrote it having just lost two young nieces to diphtheria, and his lyrics reflect his need for serenity and solace.
There is a place of comfort sweet near to the heart of God.
It’s a need that many of us feel deeply today, a century later, given the chaotic, wobbly world we live in — a digitalized, demographically shifting universe we don’t understand and can’t control. Daily we are assaulted by adversity and chaos, from climate change to Christian nationalism to the senseless sacrifice of our own like the one we witnessed last week just minutes from where we worship today.
It’s difficult in such times to find our bearings, trust our faith. Having grown up believing we’re in control, we want to stop the madness and JUST FIX IT!!!
There is a place of full release near to the heart of God.
But as Jesus says, that’s not how it works. Dealing with life’s trials, he suggests, requires reverse engineering. Hope instead of despair. Love instead of anger. Faith instead of cynicism.
It’s a beautiful argument, but for most mortals, much easier said than done. In times like these, when tragedies such as those of the past week explode in our own community, it’s difficult to break through waves of fury and frustration that assault our faith.
Yet in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus assures that we have an Advocate, the Spirit of truth that abides with us. We won’t, he assures us, be left “orphaned,” but are loved by Him and his Father.
Today let us embrace that promise, and in doing so restore our faith, not only in God but also in humankind.
A place where all is joy and peace near to the heart of God.
— Scott Spreier