STLT#120, Turn Back

I have no cohesive train of thought this morning – the truth is, the Overwhelm strategy of the Bannon White House is dangerously close to sweeping me up in its grasp. And the idea of forming a cohesive set of reflections on this hymn seems a bridge too far for me today. I mean, I couldn’t even sing all three verses at once this morning, thanks to the weltschmerz I’m experiencing. So…random thoughts:

I’m not a fan of this tune for this sentiment – it feels too cheery, and to be honest, too associated with Here We Have Gathered (360). This hymn needs something strong and intentional – the way yesterday’s tune was strong. It’s an awkward meter – 10.10.10.10.10 – so it’s not like a ton of tunes fit that. So I long for something different.

True fact: every time I look at this hymn, even in passing, I think of the song from the musical Godspell. While it plays with genre and the idea of temptation within its staging, it also has some strength our setting lacks.

Another thought: I love the first verse, and I love the second – especially in these days. And in these days, I would use the first two and then preach on it. I don’t like that this hymn wraps up the story so quickly. Sometimes we need songs that present the issue and don’t conclude anything – or else, what the heck is a sermon for? For me, I’m not dismissing it because of the God’s will like, I’m dismissing it because we set up that we’re terrible, people suck, but oh yay, it’ll all work out by the end of the song, without us actually having to do anything.

I might be a bit cynical this morning.

Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.
Old now is earth, and none may count its days;
yet humankind, whose head is crowned with flame,
still will not hear the inner God proclaim —
”Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.”

Earth might be fair, its people glad and wise.
Age after age our tragic empires rise,
built while we dream, and in that dreaming weep:
would we but wake from out our haunted sleep,
earth might be fair, and people glad and wise.

Earth shall be fair, and all its people one;
nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
peals forth in joy that old undaunted cry —
”Earth shall be fair, and all its people one.”

Interesting note: this hymn is based on a passage from Ezekiel (33:6-16) – a prophet whose words seem awfully prescient in these days. My friend, the Reverend Dawn Fortune, preached on it this past week – a sermon as fiery as Ezekiel’s wheel. It’s worth a listen.

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