Higher Ground


“We are always in the forge, or on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.” -Henry Ward Beecher

by Gary

In the spirit of true blogging on this glorious Thursday, I just want to take the time to mention two things that are on my mind today. One is from youth group last night and a follow up on my Father Damien post. The second is a reflection from my thinking as I prepared the worship for our church family this Sunday.

molokaiFrom youth group…we finished up our discussion on Father Damien and Martyrs of Charity last night. See the other post to get caught up on this. I ordered a movie through Netflix called ‘Molokai: the Story of Father Damien.’ It’s obviously not a documentary but it seems to be well researched and based on an accurate history of his life and the events on Molokai.

In one scene of the film, the character of Father Damien is speaking to a group of lepers who have come for worship. Father Damien explains to them that he doesn’t have their disease and that he can only know their pain in his heart. But Father Damien goes on to say that all men are much the same because we’ve all known loneliness. And then he speaks of Jesus and how the life and the Cross of Christ is a participation in the agony that we all experience in life. Father Damien then says this about Jesus:

“In this life on earth he healed the blind, he healed the lepers; not to tell us that men would not be blind or that men would not be lepers but to tell us in his eyes the blind people could see, the lepers were clean. And he loved them as he loves all mankind.”

The cross of Christ to me is what makes Christianity most believable and the miracles of Jesus whisper of His welcoming acceptance of us whatever state we find ourselves in. It’s true, God desires changes in us to take on His nature of love and duty of service, but He accepts us where we are. I like this quote because I need to be reminded that life here will never be without pain but it can be less lonely: by God’s accepting us and by us accepting one another.

The second thing on my mind today is from an old hymn that I ran across while thinking about worship. You may know it. It’s called ‘Higher Ground.’ Our church family this week is focusing on Hebrews 11where the text talks about all the people who have gone before us in faith. It’s a beautiful reminder of people passing this way before, which gives us all hope to ‘go well’ as we pass this way also. Our faith is strengthened by past faiths. Some people call this passage the Saints’ Hall of Fame because it names so many people.

I found many recordings of the hymn online but I chose this choral arrangement of it for you to listen to. I think it catches the depth of the song better than newer versions of it.  Listen to all of it; it gets better as it goes. If you want a more contemporary version, you can google it easily. In the third verse of ‘Higher Ground’, it says this:

For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Johnson Oatman

Johnson Oatman

I think that’s a beautiful word picture that Johnson Oatman painted in 1898, when he wrote this hymn. I’ll leave it to you for your mind to wander through all the people that have shown you how to live in faith and have now gone to join the great crowd that watches for us and waits for us.

I think the higher ground I’m trying to reach this week is a place that let’s me love people like Jesus loved people and to appreciate all the people in my past that have shown me how to love well in faith and duty.

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Filed under Music, New Thoughts

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