Abandon All Hope

“I hope for the grace to endure whatever comes.”

My partner and I were discussing hope the other night and this was his response to the question of “what do you hope for?”  (I know. You want to correct me and say, “For what do you hope?” But that never-end-a-sentence-with-a-preposition rule is a rule that doesn’t apply unless you want English to follow Latin rules instead of the rules of its German root. I don’t care what your college comp teaching assistant told you.) It seems like a rather cynical view of hope, rather pessimistic. Sure we should all hope that God give us the grace to endure whatever lies ahead, but is there something wrong with hoping, not expecting, but hoping that we could quit our jobs and actually do the work that we are called to do?

Surely hoping that our good works will advance us, bring us happiness or riches, is a silly thing. There is nothing that we can do other than trust in God’s promise, other than have faith, but to hope for nothing more than the grace to endure is a bleak proposition.

I hope for many things. I hope that I and those whom I love all stay healthy, and that if we don’t, we are given the grace to endure. I hope that I will be able to quit my job and start doing my work, and that if I can’t, I’ll have the grace to endure. As I prepare for my wedding, I hope that all will go as planned, and that my partner and I will continue to grow in faith, hope and love together, and that if things run afoul of our hopes and intentions that we will have the grace to endure.

One of the things that I hope for in regard to my impending nuptials is that all of our out-of-town family and friends will find a place to stay. We’ve had many requests for suggestions of  places to stay. I’ve suggested a variety of bed and breakfast type places, but I was walking near Union Square the other day and stopped in at the Seafarers and International House. I’d been there before when I was an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Although the Lutheran Seafarers and International House’s mission is to seafarers and sojourners, they do have rooms to let, available for anyone. The rooms are modest, but so is the price. It seemed appropriate that I should have stopped in there this week as the Gospel for last Sunday (unless you’re celebrating the Nativity of Saint John the Baptizer) is this, from the book of Mark:

35 And the same day, when the Euen was come, he saith vnto them, Let vs passe ouer vnto the other side. 36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they tooke him, euen as he was in the ship, and there were also with him other litle ships. 37 And there arose a great storme of wind, and the waues beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship asleepe on a pillow: and they awake him, and say vnto him, Master, carest thou not, that we perish? 39 And hee arose, and rebuked the winde, and said vnto the sea, Peace, be still: and the winde ceased, and there was a great calme. 40 And he said vnto them, Why are ye so fearefull? How is it that you haue no faith? 41 And they feared exceedingly, and saide one to another, What maner of man is this, that euen the winde and the sea obey him?

The knowledge of the Gospel reading for this past Sunday and my visit to the Mission brought the hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save” to mind. I think that the last time I sang that in church I was still attending a Lutheran church, and the pastor from the Seafarer’s Mission came for a visit. “Eternal Father Strong to Save” is such a specific hymn, but so incredibly beautiful and full of hope.

 

 

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

I’d once thought of writing another verse to this hymn. I wanted to write something about God’s gift of Saint Nicholas, Patron of Sailors, and the miracle of his bi-location while at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, but I thought better of it when I took a closer look at the text. It is perfect as it is. The expression of an Orthodox, Trinitarian faith is so beautifully crafted in its verses as they move from God the Father to the Son and the Holy Ghost ending in a unifying verse addressed to the Holy Trinity. Why would anyone change a word?

People have changed the words many times though. The Episcopal Church changed lyrics in the 1940s to include travel on land and air. There are verses for Veterans, SEALs, Aviation, Marines, Seabees, Submariners, Navy Nurses, Arctic Explorers, Astronauts, Doctors, etc, etc, etc….

I’ve mentioned before that I used to attend an ELCA Lutheran church, that I was confirmed a Missouri Synod Lutheran, that I have family ties that go back to the Wisconsin Synod, and that I currently worship in a high Anglo-Catholic Church. Much of what I write here is a critique of liturgical change and an exploration of just why I can no longer call the Lutheran Church my home, although I still consider myself a confessional Evangelical Catholic (Lutheran). I continue to hope that the Lutheran church will return to its liturgical as well as confessional roots in such a way that it can remain, or grow into, a Gospel-centered, socially progressive, liturgically conservative church, and, by God’s Grace, endure.

When I stopped in at the Seafarers Mission, I stepped into the chapel I was dissapointed to see the new scarlet hymnal “Evangelical Lutheran Worship” in the pews. (Most of the church, so as not to confuse this book with the older red book, calls this the cranberry book. Cranberry is not a liturgical colour. Scarlet is a liturgical colour. Scarlet may have other implications that I’d also ascribe to this book.) What was more disturbing, however, was the fact that there is only one worship service held there, and only on Sunday. With such a rich liturgical tradition and the opportunity to provide an Evangelical Catholic worship experience for Matins, Vespers, a noon day service, and Mass on other feast Days like the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, it just seemed like a wasted opportunity to have a single weekly service. Etwas fehlt. Sure this version of the hymnal has little connection to the Confessional tradition of the church, let alone its liturgical tradition, but there is no lack of service settings.

The Episcopal Church hes no real confessional tradition. They do, however, have a prayerbook that in some ways is their confession of faith. Without a confessional tradition to rely on they are coming up against some stormy decisions. Growing up in the Missouri Synod, Communion was only given to those who’d been confirmed. One had to be initiated into the mysteries before one could participate. When I moved to the ELCA, Communion was given to anyone who was baptized. This was difficult for me to get used to, but there was an orthodoxy in the ELCA giving communion to anyone who’d been baptized. This rule is also present in the Episcopal Church: Any baptized Christian may partake in Holy Communion. But this may soon change. There is a post on the blog Contemplative Vernacular that addresses this issue, and I urge you to read the post: CWOB: Asking the Wrong Questions.

It’s not only the connection between Baptism and Communion that’s under fire in the Episcopal Church, but the very idea of Confirmation. Once again Contemplative Vernacular deals with this issue in a post called: Reconnecting Confirmation. As I hope that the Lutherans might learn something from the Anglicans about the importance of liturgical tradition, I hope that the Anglicans take a lesson from the confessional tradition of the Lutherans, choose orthodoxy, and keep Jesus in the boat. After all it’s he who can calm the storm.

Let me bring things back to the hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” and to hoping for a hymnody that speaks to youth. My friend Jen commented with a link on my post Beating the Bounds. Anyone of any denomination who feels that either hymns or liturgy need to be updated for the sake of attracting youth should read the post Don’t Do It for the Kids from The Curate’s Desk. I hope that those now making decisions about the traditions of the church will consider that our catholic traditions have been systematically dismantled since the 60s, and those of us who grew up in this age without tradition or connection to the past are craving the very things that have been set aside.  I pray that should decisions be made for unorthodoxy, I may have the grace to persevere.

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One thought on “Abandon All Hope

  1. Pingback: Why Young People Leave the Church « Uncle Frog

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