We cannot bear the full light of your glory
while we are here on this created earth;
your holiness, your claim on truth and justice,
would crush our lives, lay bare our secret shames.
So, in your love, your mercy and true wisdom,
as you come close, you hide us with your hand;
yet let a glimpse of majesty and grandeur
colour our lives, beyond imagining.
You do not come as fire or wind or earthquake
but as small voice, a murmur, hardly heard.
When life is hard we may forget your glory
but light spills out, even from darkest clouds.
So, God, each day, we look to glimpse your glory;
to find you here in ordinary life.
Then we can sense the fullness that awaits us
when we’re embraced by your eternal light.
Words: © Andrew Brown, March 2014
Metre: LM 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206.)
Suggested tunes: "Morning Star" (StF 226); "Highwood" (StF 720). Alternatively, the text may be sung as two verses to the tune "Londonderry Air" (StF 350) – amending the final line (8) of the tune to repeat line 4.
Andrew’s text was inspired by the Revd Ruth Gee’s presidential address at the British Methodist Conference, 2013.
Ideas for use
The poetry of this text, and the openness of its non-rhyming structure, suggests the possibility that it may be used as a spoken prayer; or as a reading to be enacted or represented in some visual and creative way.
The Italian painter Tintoretto imagines Moses hiding his face from God
Andrew Brown’s text is a thought-provoking re-assertion of the mystery of God and an exploration of our partial experience of God’s presence and will. It acknowledges that we only ever have the ability to capture glimpses of God “at work” in our lives or in the world. None of us, Andrew says, can be so confident as to believe that we may describe God’s will completely.
(See Erik Routley's comments on the importance of divine mystery expressed in William Cowper's God moves in a mysterious way.)
Verse 2 refers to the story in Exodus 33: 18-23 in which God passes by Moses but ensures that Moses is both hidden and protected from God’s glory (“you hide us with your hand”). Verse 3 draws upon Elijah’s encounter with God on Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19: 11-13.**
The Singing the Faith Reference Group found in Andrew’s text an openness that Andrew acknowledges. Referring to his particular love of the Old Testament scriptures, he says that many of his hymns speak of, or address, God without reference to the persons of the Holy Trinity. As a result, he offers us – as here – words that open up all sorts of divine possibility, unfettered by specific Christian doctrines.
** Other hymns that draw upon Elijah’s encounter with God on Mount Horeb include Dear Lord and Father of mankind (StF 495); Christopher Idle’s Lord, you sometimes speak in wonders (StF 158) and Charles Wesley’s Open, Lord, my inward ear (StF 450).
Andrew Brown has been a Methodist Local Preacher for forty years and is now based in Yorkshire. He says: “I became interested in writing hymn poems in 2003 and am keen to provide words that question and challenge, while remaining true to the good news of God’s love for each individual.”