Monday, December 20, 2010

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would often play the gospel hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" and sing along as she played.  It is not a favorite of mine but I cannot hear it without hearing the sound of Grandma's voice and hearing the way she played.  It is an old song not sung all that much anymore.  George Beverly Shea sang it at the Billy Graham Crusades.  Some of the greats of the past sang it (Mahalia Jackson, for example -- though her rendition has little in common with Grandma's).

The words are comforting -- the picture of God who watches over the sparrow which is of little consequence urges us to consider how He watches over us, whom He counts as of much greater worth to Him.  There is a reference to John 14 and a reminder that the trials and troubles of this mortal life are meant to drive us into the arms of our Savior and not away from His mercy and grace.  As Gospel songs go, the words are pretty good.

But I wonder about the other view in all of this.  We know God's eye is watching us.  Where are we looking?  What is the view in our lens?  I must confess I seldom feel like God is looking away from me.  There are many moments when I am uncertain or confused about how this or that is working out and times I feel somewhat alone.  The problem does not like with God's distractions.  They are with mine.

I find that one of the great things about the liturgy is the ability of this familiar form and words to call me back when my heart begins to wander, when my mind is distracted, and when my eyes turn away from Jesus.  No Pastor believes that everyone in the pews remains constantly focused upon what is happening in the Divine Service.  We drift.  We are distracted.  We sometimes choose to focus on what is not there instead of what is.  The great blessing of the liturgy and hymns is that they call us back, returning the wandering hearts to the Word of the Gospel read, preached, and sung.  They provide multiple entry points for the distracted mind to return to what is at hand.  And one of the values of the art of the stained glass and banners and paraments and paint is that the eye is constantly returned to the images of faith when our vision begins to fade away from what is at hand.

One of the fellows in our Church had grown accustomed to watching the sky and clouds through an 8 foot diameter round window above our altar.  We knew that eventually it would be stained glass but for now we could not afford it.  It was left clear.  After a few years, the stained glass came (the results are shown on this blog - the means of grace window).  The gentleman spoke to me about how disappointed he was that we covered up his window to the sky with stained glass.  A few years later this same man came up to me and told me how he had missed the clear window with its vantage point to the sky but he had come to realize that this was an open window for his attention to wander and for his mind to go far afield of what was happening in the worship service.  He had learned the value of those sacred images of the Word and Sacraments and the power of this visual image to return him to the context of the Divine Service as it unfolded before Him.

I know where God's eye is.  It is mine that wanders.  My eyes, my mind, and my heart are prone to wander and the journey back would be long and hard were it not for the family sound of the hymns, the regular routine and living pulse of the liturgy as it flows along, and the wonderful images that move the eye and prod the mind and heart back to what is happening.  God is here.  His Word speaks.  He does what His Word says.  He absolves me of the weight of my failures and guilt.  He addresses me as His own by baptism and faith.  He feeds me at His own Table -- the food of Jesus' flesh and blood.  His eye is always where it needs to be.  My eyes need to be turned back toward the home of His house often.

Such is also the power of daily devotional time and prayer.  It focuses the eye, the heart, and the mind.  The day will be filled with distractions, with trials, with temptations, and with sins.  But that moment in prayer and reflection upon His Word becomes one of the means I am continually called back to who I am by baptism, what I confess by faith, and how I live by grace in Christ.

So, we know where God's eye is.... what about yours?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suffering and bearing our cross in
the New Testament indicates our
solidarity with Christ. We will
suffer sometimes because we are
Christians for the sake of Christ.
We can be persecuted by the world
because we believe in Christ.

Some burdens we bear are because we
are members of the human race. A
person may suffer from cancer because
he has a mortal and sinful body.
Yet that is not suffering because
we are Christians or bearing our
cross in the New Testament sense.