Friday, November 30, 2018

Weary of All Trumpeting


O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless.
Ps. 108:12 

I'll say nothing here of America's past wars. I have only been alive since 1960. And since my life began, I do not have much reason to put faith in my nation's ability to make war. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan... these are not names that will go down in the annals of history as examples of great wars conducted for noble causes. Once again, I'll not comment on the others. But the ones I've watched—albeit from afar—have only proven the truth of Psalm 108:12. If there is any such thing as a just war, it cannot be conducted outside God's will and without dependence on God's help. 

Augustine has a very interesting take on this verse:
For trouble and profitable sorrow I did not feel; trouble, wherein he giveth aid, unto whom it is said, 'O be thou our help in trouble: and vain is the help of man.' For I thought I might rejoice and exult in the vain help of man; but when I had heard from my Lord, 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,' I did not wait until I should lose those temporal blessings in which I rejoiced, and should then mourn. But I gave heed to that very misery of mine which caused me to rejoice in such things, which I both feared to lose, and yet could not retain. I gave heed to it firmly and courageously, and I saw that I was not only agonized by the adversities of this world, but even bound by its good fortune. And thus 'I found the trouble and heaviness' which had escaped me, 'and called upon the Name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul.' Let then the holy people of God say, 'I called upon the Name of the Lord.' And let the remainder of unbelievers hear, who do not as yet call upon the Name of the Lord; let them hear and seek, that they may discover trouble and heaviness, and may call upon the Name of the Lord, and be saved.…
My reading of Augustine is that we should prefer the beatitudes to warfare, and give preference to mourning over militarism. This morning's prayer, therefore, is a hymn text by Martin Franzmann (1972):
Weary of all trumpeting, weary of all killing,
weary of all songs that sing
promise, nonfulfilling.
We would raise, O Christ, one song:
we would join in singing
that great music pure and strong,
wherewith heav’n is ringing.

Captain Christ, O lowly Lord,
Servant-King, your dying
bade us sheathe the foolish sword,
bade us cease denying.
Trumpet with your Spirit’s breath
through each height and hollow:
into your self-giving death,
call us all to follow.

To the triumph of your cross
summon all the living.
Summon us to live by loss,
gaining all by giving.
Suff’ring all, that we may see
triumph in surrender;
leaving all, that we may be
partners in your splendor.
Amen.