Poem - How Clear, How Lovely Bright

How Clear, How Lovely Bright, by A E Housman (1859-1936) is a poem for difficult times. The inspirational subject matter has a marked application in these difficult days of the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems to offer a far more than average appreciation of how to live as a Christian than many conventional sermons and prayers.

How clear, how lovely bright, How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play; How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free, Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day. To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong, Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how, I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow I never kept before. Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies Into the west away; Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found, How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.

Thank you to Rev Dr David Bell for suggesting this poem. Written in the 1880s it wasn't published, until just after Housman's death. The poem got a new burst of energy when it was used in the Inspector Morse TV series. The last stanza was uttered by Morse shortly before his death in the final episode. Music on this video clip is by Michael Bell, former organist at Pitt St Church.

Prayers for others

Our invitation this morning is to spend a short time in personal prayer. We bring to mind events in our world, our country, our neighbourhood and we remember our families. We recall events beyond our shores, people who have lost everything in a hurricane in Bangladesh, people displaced by war and poverty who have sought to find a new life, finding themselves in Refugee Camps – knowing that we have such little news of world events, unless it is of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where major news channels provide us with a range of views and contrasting responses. Here in Aotearoa - New Zealand we know of people whose livelihoods have been disrupted or lost, leading to their being unable to make rent payments and provide food for their families. There are who have lost loved ones and feel that they are not able to mourn in an appropriate way. Our prayers are in response to these circumstances. Our response is to bring these prayers to life: so that they are not just words!

Walter has recorded three verses of Charles Wesley’s 1738 tune SAGINA. The hymn “And can it be”, written to mark his 23 May 1738 conversion, is set to this tune and widely accepted as the national anthem of Methodism. For this morning, with the Lectionary Readings in mind, I have rewritten the second verse. For today the words are -
“This is a mystery: hard to explain.
How can we tell what happened there?
Angels have tried to clarify:
They find the answer in love divine!
‘tis mercy all!
Let earth adore:
Let angel minds enquire no more!
‘Tis mercy all!
Let earth adore:
Let angel minds enquire no more!”

Play the audio clip:

The Lord’s Prayer

John Wesley wrote a famous commentary/meditation on the Lord's Prayer, which you can read here.  These are the words with which he was familiar:

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
For ever and ever, Amen.