Eric Swensson

28 January 2012

photo of Pr. Eric"Be Thou My Vision" is an ancient Irish hymn, possibly from the 8th C. It contains much wisdom, starting with the title. Be my vision. Help me see you, Lord. Help me see the world as you do. Help me see everything, including the heavenlies, the spiritual realities. Help me see, Lord.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Have you noticed how much in the Scriptures is about sight and the need to see clearly? For instance, words like "perceive," which even sounds reminiscent of seeing. There are many sight motifs in Scripture, for example, "the lamp had not gone out completely, but visions were rare at the time of Samuel." Help me see, Lord.

When it comes to spiritual things we see best with our spiritual sight, not the eyes below your forehead but the eyes another foot below, the eyes of the heart. Of course, we need the eyes of the mind because with the eyes of the heart alone we can be suckered into an emotion-only based response. We can be tricked into a conclusion that is just as worldly as approving of something because of its appearance. We need spiritual discernment. We should not be too quick that something is from God. If it is, there will be verification.

Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

God’s Word is something that works on our mind and heart. If something makes rational sense based on our reason, our experience, our previous knowledge of God’s word and everything we’ve been taught by people whose values we respect, there is verification. We need God’s true Word, and more of it, every day of our lives. If we seek it out, if we pause and contemplate it when the encountered by the Word, more and more the Word will dwell in us, and we will then find our self dwelling with Jesus who addresses us with the kind invitation, “Abide in Me.”

Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

If this message is beginning to sound like it is all so very NICE but without substance, hold on. The life of a Christian has always been one to follow the cross, to make hard choices, to deny yourself, to submit to God’s Word in concrete ways in our day to day lives. How? You tell me. I don’t live where you live, I don’t know your family, neighbors, the people you work with. But you do. Think right now, how are you being brother, sister, neighbor? How do they think of you? You may be the only sermon they see all week. We can’t walk past people who need help; we can’t keep silent while people are harming themselves and others. However, we have God to help us to know what to do. He asks us to arm ourselves with His Word, to use discernment, to pray before we act. Scripture tells us that believers do spiritual battle in the high heavenlies. Our enemy is not human. Why are we so focused on what the media says? We need to ask God what is going on.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

So much of what passes for success, so much of our time and our work are poured out for the attainment of things that are of little value at the end of our lives. What does popularity mean anyway? What does it matter what people think of you? Be what God is calling you to be. Be very careful about measuring yourself by anyone else’s yardstick. Oh, it matters what your character is, and if your every action matches it. Your reputation matters, but only as it promotes what is good and true and eternal. Too many people want very much to be seen as the smartest person in the room, or the coolest kid in class, and their actions and behaviors show it. Our world, our country, even the churches suffer because people want to be seen as being up-to-date rather than in step with the eternal. It is not as though Scripture does not tell us what virtues we are to embody. It is helpful to hear again that most of the so-called virtues are merely a believer’s embodiment of a spiritual good that is one of God’s spiritual gifts or fruits.

graphic of visionSpiritual life is liquid. What? For example, Scripture says God’s love is poured into our hearts. We are nothing but wineskins folks. You know how they use to make wineskins, right? Don’t glorify people. We are just skin and bones, and our worldly existence is just a matter of a certain number of years. It is our spiritual existence that counts for so much more, and even there, what is there to glorify? Even as we are caught up in the spiritual, we are just skin, a wineskin, we can get inflated with hot air and get all puffed up, or we can ask God to fill us with the new wine of the Kingdom, to pour His love into our hearts, that we become gushing fountains of love, that this love wash over the people in our lives, that we all be refreshed. This world is a hard place these days and people are wrung out, cried out and dried up, become hard and brittle. Or maybe that’s just me?

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heavens Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.

There is much in the Scriptures about sight. Jesus’ last words to his followers in Matthew before ascending were that they should teach new disciples to observe all things whatsoever he commanded. Observe. God is watching. People are watching us to see what it is Christians believe. It matters. Pray to the Lord of the harvest.

Thanks be to God that we are part of the harvest through our faith in what God has done for us through Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross.

Jesus, be our victory. Help us in our struggle. Help us that when we hear you, our spiritual ears are not only being tickled with favorite verses from the Bible and well-loved hymns. Help us to appreciate being your followers and to really try to follow in your footsteps. Help us to see in discipleship a way of life. Help us to reach others for you in all we do, not just in select moments. We do love you, and so in your mercy, we ask again, look in favor on your people, make our lives count for the eternal, use us. Dear Lord, we look forward to heaven; give us a glimpse of it now. Give us new life Jesus, be life to us, be our all in all. +Amen