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Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
reigning omnipotent in every place,
so come, O King, and our whole being sway;
shine on us with the light of thy pure day.
“I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art” (vv. 2–3)
from Strasbourg’s Psalms (1545), translation by Elizabeth Lee Smith (1868)
Hymn 624, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
Margaret was not going to make a profession of faith at the end of Confirmation, she explained, because she couldn’t square belief in an “omnipotent” God with her dad’s chronic illness. She didn’t hold that belief against the church, and she still wanted to come to worship, but she would not profess belief in God’s omnipotence. Her experience of her dad’s persistent suffering wouldn’t let her.
I didn’t really blame her.
Theologian Daniel Migliore understands Margaret’s resistance to belief in God as all-powerful, too. In his book Faith Seeking Understanding, he writes,
Failure to rethink and reform our ideas of God’s impassibility, immutability, and omnipotence in the light of the gospel sets the Christian doctrine of God at odds with the proclamation of Christ crucified. It may also support, however unintentionally, ways of thinking and patterns of behavior that are insensitive to the suffering of others, resistant to needed change, and prone to divorce power from compassion and responsibility.
Thankfully, the second verse of “I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art” doesn’t make the mistake Migliore warns of. We sing in this verse of a king known for “mercy” and “grace” instead of pure power. We pray to be “swayed” by God, not coerced, much less forced. This is a hymn we can sing in suffering, because it recalls for us the truth of the gospel: that God is all-powerful in self-giving love and that God’s power is measured in grace and mercy, not in detachment. In short, God is not absent from whatever we and the people we love are suffering. God is “God with us” even in (or, perhaps, especially in) our suffering.
God of mercy and grace, your reign of power-in-weakness is unbound. Come, we pray, into this moment of fear and loss, and move us in our limitations to emulate your compassion, that the world may see in us the light of hope and humanity. Through Christ, the inextinguishable light. Amen.
Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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