What is it?
What is it that sounds along the ages, that breathes from Buddha’s tree, that speaks new truth, that resounds from the eternal chime?
Is it truth? Justice? Love? Spirit? Is it, as I first thought, Yes?
Is it, in fact whatever it is we seek from the wisdom of humanity?
What is it?
It sounds along the ages, soul answering to soul;
it kindles on the pages of every Bible scroll;
the psalmist heard and sang it, from martyr lips it broke,
and prophet tongues outrang it till sleeping nations woke.
From Sinai’s cliffs it echoed, it breathed from Buddha’s tree,
it charmed in Athens’ market, it hallowed Galilee;
the hammer stroke of Luther, the Pilgrims’ seaside prayer,
the oracles of Concord one holy word declare.
It calls — and lo, new justice! It speaks — and lo, new truth!
In ever nobler stature and unexhausted youth.
Forever on resounding, and knowing nought of time,
our laws but catch the music of its eternal chime.
We actually do have an answer… sort of. According to Jacqui James in Between the Lines, William Gannett’s original four verses were called “The Word of God.” (Lots of reframing/additions/shifts since its original publication in 1911.)
The word of God.
Okay. But what IS the word of God? Is it truth? Justice? Love? Spirit? Yes?
Ultimately, this is a lively and pretty cool hymn, one I can see using a number of ways, including in the wrap up service on our Conversations with World Religions that the church I serve has been engaged in since September. And what I like is that whatever you think the word of God might be, it’s in there.
So for me, I will say that It is Yes – because from all the things I’ve read in holy books and have experienced as a person of faith and a practical theologian, it seems to me everything comes down to saying Yes.
Yes to risk.
Yes to justice.
Yes to the vision of beloved community.
Yes to the all of our stories.
Yes to the opportunities to grow and learn.
Yes to love.
Yes to possibility.