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Bleached Upon the Shore

One does not typically expect to encounter theological inspiration at a church finance meeting. Well, I suppose some might, but I do not number myself among such strange creatures. For most of this week’s church business meeting, things proceeded according to the script. There were facts and figures and updates and PowerPoint slides and motions and seconders to motions and questions and clarifications and dialogue and decisions and then we were done.

But we are Mennonites, and Mennonites cannot seem to let a public gathering of any kind pass by without seizing upon the opportunity to sing together. I don’t know, it’s just what we do. So, as we were shuffling around, gathering our coats and papers and getting ready to head out into the night, we opened our hymnals and sang these words:

Beyond a dying sun I saw a vision on the sea
of golden sails full billowed on the wind.
And echoing above the waves a voice called after me,
“God’s dwelling place is with you till the end.”
For God at last shall wipe away the tears from ev’ry eye
The sting of death shall pierce the heart no more.
When grieving turns to laughter all the pain from us shall fly,
and former ways lie bleached upon the shore.
Though hatred rages on the wind and wars defile the land,
I see those golden sails still coming strong,
for through the eyes of faith still shines the vision of the Lamb,
and o’er a weary earth there rings this song.
I see a new world coming when everyone is free!
And all shall be God’s people in justice, love and peace.

It was, needless to say, jarring—in the best sense of the word—to go from number crunching to this beautiful vision of the eschatological future.

And what an image, this image of “former ways” lying “bleached upon the shore.” All that is false, hurtful, unjust, damaging, defacing about our world… all that is selfish, stupid, shortsighted, ignorant, and idolatrous about our own hearts and habits… all that is crushed and reeling within our fragile spirits… well, there it all is—You see? Right over there!—these “former ways” lying on the shore, all spent and used up, all withered and dying, exposed for their transience and impotence, wilting and wasting away under the blazing light of the new world sun.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tanya #

    I, for one, can hardly wait…

    March 7, 2013
    • Speaking of waiting… Whenever I hear the word “wait,” I think of a quote from Frederick Buechner that I used in a post from a few years back about how we wait:

      [O]ne of the ways that the world waits through its darkness… is to lust after the very darkness that makes us sick, to revel in our despair, to smack our lips over our own vomit. This is one way to wait, and it is a tempting way because it makes us seem brave and indeed requires a kind of bravery—laughing in the face of the idiot night. It is tempting also because sometimes despair is easier than faith.

      The other way to wait is to say, “To hell with the dark. God damn the dark to hell because hell it is.” The other way to wait is to say, “Hallelujah,” which means “Praise God.” Praise God because the dark is never the end, the end is light and the light has already broken through the world out of the very heart of the world’s darkness, which is the cross of the world’s suffering. And it will break through again, as surely as, far down the road, the rider comes again his weary, lonesome way.

      March 8, 2013
  2. Guess there’s a reason why we Mennonites sing all the time. 🙂

    March 8, 2013
  3. Ryan…I had no idea that Mennonites sing at the drop of a hat. I love it!

    March 11, 2013

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