STLT#71, In the Spring with Plow and Harrow

It’s almost like someone heard me complain about hymns going nowhere, and slid this one right in for me so I wouldn’t lose faith in our hymnal.

This isn’t bad, as hymns go. The title hides the message, for sure – you wouldn’t think something called “In the Spring with Plow and Harrow” would be an anti-war tune, but sure enough: anti-war, anti-greed. And really, we don’t sing the word “avarice” enough in hymns.

In the spring, with plow and harrow,
farmers worked in field and furrow;
now we harvest for tomorrow.

Beauty adds to bounty’s measure
giving freely for our pleasure
sights and sounds and scents to treasure.

But earth’s garden will not flourish
if in greed we spoil and ravish
that which we should prize and cherish.

We must show a deeper caring,
show compassion to the dying,
cease from avarice and warring.

So may we at our thanksgiving
give this pledge to all things living:
that we will obey love’s bidding.

My real problem in writing about this hymn is not the hymn itself – it’s good, it moves, it’s easy to sing, it’s a mid-20th century hymn that doesn’t try to be too clever. My real problem is that I’m becoming frustrated by this lingering in the first source.

You see, while hymnals from Christian denominations are arranged by liturgical season, ours are arranged by source – from the start, we’ve been working through Transcending Mystery and Wonder (don’t believe me? Look at the Contents page of your hymnal). We are about three-quarters of the way through, with more nature, then meditations, mystical songs, and hymns of transience still to go. We will be stuck in the first source until mid-January.

I get it. Oh lordy, do I get it. Through dark days – politically, spiritually, and naturally – it’s been all about transcending mystery and wonder. And sure, on ordinary days in ordinary times, I’m a big fan of the first source. But it just keeps on coming right now, day after day, when I am tired of taking the long view, tired of seeing the long arc of the universe grow longer, tired of looking beyond the here and now for some greater inspiration and meaning, tired of looking at nature to inform us, tired of awe.

Really, it just boils down to being tired, beaten down, still fearful, still angry, feeling uncertain and frustrated, and watching these cold dark days get colder and darker. I’m tired.

But tomorrow, I’ll pick up the hymnal again and sing a hymn of mystery and wonder again, and maybe feel just as tired, or maybe less so, but most certainly will keep on moving forward. Maybe I’ll feel a little more transcendence in another day or so.

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