Be thou my vision, O God of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me God;
thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tower,
raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor world’s empty praise,
thou my inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
Sov’reign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
Commence theological whiplash in 3…2…1….
Yesterday, we sang a paean to the interconnected web of all existence. Today, we shall now sing one of the most theistic hymns we have. We’ve gone from a recitation of things found in nature and among us (sun, wind, the lark, the seasons, rain and snow, play, sleep), saying “I’m as rich as rich can be, for all these things belong to me … to a singular focus on a transcendent God: “thou my inheritance, first and always.”
Like I said. Whiplash.
Not that it’s bad… in fact, it’s quite reflective of the vastness of our theologies and perspectives, and speaks deeply of who we are that these two hymns can be on facing pages, one touching the other almost all the time, getting our sense of the planet all mashed up with a focus on the Divine.
Oddly, it’s not entirely unreflective of my own theology – individually, they are what they are. But mashed up together (which musically would be difficult due to different time signatures and phrasing), they feel very much like the theistic process theology I find both comforting and challenging. Here’s creation and all the amazingness that it is, and we can celebrate our part in it, and… we can look to that which some call God as the source of vision, wisdom, comfort, protection to be key to that creation which we celebrate. It isn’t a perfect fit, of course; I’m not sure I’m completely down with this early 20th century picture of God, but some within our faith are, and I am glad we celebrate this transcendent God in our hymnal.
Musically, of course, this tune is light, easy, familiar – I am sure most UUs regularly sing this to Thomas Mikelson’s words, “Wake now my senses and hear the earth call” (298 for those keeping score). It’s catchy – a tune I will probably find myself humming all day.
But beyond today, I will carry with me this juxtaposition, this theological whiplash, and continue to think about how we hold these differences in juxtaposition, put them in conversation, make space for the both outside a book where they don’t even know they’re connected. This is part of our work: making sense of the space where both these things are true.