Monday Matters (December 12, 2016)


Tune my heart

I have learned much from the teenagers of the congregation where I serve. They are a gift to me. One blessing comes with their music, quite specifically one version of an old time hymn they’ve brought to new life for me. The way they sing “Come thou fount of every blessing” has caused me to hear the text in new ways.

I was recently on a walk in the woods, replaying the hymn in my mind, recognizing that the whole hymn is really a prayer for renewal. (Hymn text below) I stopped on this phrase which I’ve sung a million times, but heard in a new way: “Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”

It made me think about my heart, and not in a cardiologist kind of way. I thought about where I was giving my heart. Was I giving my heart to that which would satisfy my heart, borrowing a question from one of the desert fathers? Was my heart heavy? Distracted? In the imagery of the hymn, was it out of tune? If so, what caused that? And what could be done about that?

Any number of things can cause my heart to go out of tune. Like a musical instrument, a jarring movement can do it, the change and chances of life. Lack of use or exercise can do it. Atmospherics, turning up the heat, growing cold can do it. The affections, the spiritual inclinations that might be considered matters of the heart can be rendered dissonant by resentment, anxiety, boredom, a loss of hope. I confess that news of late has set my own heart out of tune. What’s to be done?

Returning to the observation that this hymn text is a prayer, I suspect the first thing to say is that any tuning, adjusting, recalculating, comes as gift. It is God’s work. So if my out of tune heart is going to be brought to a new place, it must be seen as God’s holy work with which I am willing to cooperate, work to which I am open. Maybe I can’t do the tuning. But I can ask to be an instrument of God’s peace. Maybe I can’t do the tuning. But experience tells me I could probably obstruct it if I was so inclined, or so clueless.

So what are the obstructions in my life? (How much time do you have?) How can I pay attention to the voice of John the Baptist this Advent and think about where I need to repent. Translation: where do I need to change direction, recalculate as Siri would describe it. One place in particular is in gratitude. I can stand to grow in that. Another is in having a heart oriented toward service, not towards what I’m due. Another growth opportunity.

Someone once told me that the best way to understand the mystery of prayer is that it is a matter of aligning our will with God’s will. The call to alignment is just another way of describing the tuning of the heart. That can happen in confession, intercession, silence, song, thanksgiving, praise, service.

We find ourselves in the season of Advent, a time of preparation for the grand celebration of Christmas, good tidings of joy which shall be to all people. In many ways, Advent is a time to tune our hearts to sing the praises first shared with shepherds on that hillside. Take the quiet call of the season of Advent to listen to your heart. Is there a way in which it seems to be out of tune, slightly or significantly? Can you offer a prayer for God gracious activity to tune your heart to sing God’s praise? Can you get specific, naming those things that contribute to dissonance and discordance?

Pray the hymn. Tune your heart. Sing God’s grace.

-Jay Sidebotham

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through – listen to this music.
 -14th Century Sufi mystic Hafiz 
Christian prayer thus becomes much more a merging than a manipulating, much more dancing than dominating, much more participation than partisanship. Those of you who want rain and those of you who want the flooding to stop both dance in the unitive center of the God who holds the rain and the dry land alike. You rest in God, not in outcomes.
-Richard Rohr
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it, mount of God’s redeeming love.
Here I find my greatest treasure;
hither by thy help I’ve come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, bought me with his precious blood.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee: prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above. 


Jay SidebothamContact:
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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