My elder brother's first car was a Ford Popular and, way back in the early 1950's, he took me on a tour of Scotland in it. We were aiming for Cape Wrath. It was Sunday; we were north of Inverness, and as we passed through Invergordon we saw people wending their way to church, so I decided to join them. By the time I reached the church door, the service had already begun, and as I walked down the aisle the congregation were singing Psalm 121 - ‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes from whence doth come mine aid ...’
They sang in that deep, measured, melodious way that is so characteristic of Scottish hymn singing, and I felt to be transported to the very gates of heaven and caught a glimpse of the glory beyond, and I knew that God IS! And now, if ever I am in doubt, in confusion, tempted or tried, I think back to Invergordon, and my faith is restored to its firm foundation. We are spiritual beings; our souls and spirits need to be fed as much as our bodies, and that is why music, literature and art are so important to bring fullness into our lives.
In my home church in the 1930s/40s, Arthur Beaver - a great outdoors man - would lead a church ramble into the Yorkshire dales every Bank Holiday Monday. As we trudged to catch the bus home, from Otley or Ilkley or Skipton, it would be raining. We would be drenched and feeling sorry for ourselves - then someone would strike up, 'Old Macdonald had - a farm, ee aye ee aye oh', and very soon we would all be singing, spirits lifted, strength renewed - and who cares about wet feet anyway!
This is true also on a higher plain. Listen to the Huddersfield Choral Society sing Handel's Halleleiua Chorus, and you find yourself in another world, your inner being tingles, you are touching eternity, and you know that God IS.
I am no poet, and many poems I just do not understand, but often the rhythm, balance and cadences of rhyming poetry do speak to me and touch my inner self. "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, host of golden daffodils." These words help me to see the glory of the Creator in the sparkling yellow flowers. I am lifted up, my soul is warmed, I feel the surge of new life in my old bones, and I know God IS.
And when I read the poetic rhythm of St Paul's words in wonderment of Christ (Col 1:15f), "Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God ... through him God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself", I become transfixed in wonder and awe, as I do when I read the words of Isaac Watts (Singing the Faith 287), "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
It draws me to my knees, warms my soul, renews my spirit, and I know Jesus IS the fullness of life, and God IS.
Lift up a fine bone china cup and saucer; the very feel of it speaks of craftsmanship, beauty and perfection. When your lips touch the cup to take a sip of tea, your spirit is lifted, your soul warmed, and the tea tastes far better than from that old earthenware mug hanging on a hook in the kitchen.
The Bible likens us to potter's clay (Jer 18), and the whole purpose of God's creation and Christ's calling is that we should be moulded into 'Something Beautiful for God' (as Malcolm Muggeridge once described Mother Teresa). The feel of the bone china cup gives us a vision of what we ought to be and can be if we let Jesus have his way in our lives.
St John (1 John 3:2) assures us that if we do let Jesus have a hand in our lives, then ultimately 'We Shall Be as He is', glowing with the radiance of His divine spirit. But we cannot touch Jesus as we touch the china cup, so we must bear in mind the words Jesus spoke to Doubting Thomas, "Blessed are they who cannot see me yet believe." (John 20:20)
The most beautiful and fulfilling thing in all the world is the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, because, through it, the transforming and fulfilling love of God flows out to embrace all humanity - and you and me - because God IS, and with Him and in Him we are fulfilled in body, mind and spirit.
The highest calling in life is to be 'Something beautiful for God', and this was the deep yearning of Katie Barclay Wilkinson when she wrote, "May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day, by His love and power controlling all I do or say". (Singing the Faith 504)
Rev'd. Bernard Dodd
Blog posts written by the Minister and Members of Frodsham Methodist Church.