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.