Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yet we eat our morsel alone...

I use the devotional guide For All the Saints, and have been using it for years... probably almost ten, ever since my grandparents gave me the four-volume set for Christmas my first or second year in seminary. Despite having gone through the volumes several times now (it is a two-year lectionary), I still come across things in it that I either skipped over or just don't remember.

Today there was a passage from Job, where Job says,
If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
or have eaten my morsel alone,
and the orphan has not eaten from it—
for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father,
and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow
if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
or a poor person without covering,
whose loins have not blessed me,
and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
if I have raised my hand against the orphan,
because I saw I had supporters at the gate;
then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
and let my arm be broken from its socket.
For I was in terror of calamity from God,
and I could not have faced his majesty. (Job 31:16-23, my emphasis)
In conjunction with this passage, the devotional used a poem by William Alexander, Archbishop of the Church of Ireland in the late 19th century. The poem as presented in For All The Saints used an ellipsis so I knew the poem was not complete. I managed to find only one complete version through Google. It was in a volume of The Lutheran Witness, volume 34, published by Concordia Publishing House in 1915, which appears to be a compendium of Lutheran news and devotional and catechetical material. In a section entitled simply "Job" the work republished Archbishop Alexander's entire poem.
"If I have eaten my morsel alone"--
The patriarch spoke in scorn;
What would he think of the Church,
Were he shown Heathendom, huge, forlorn,
Godless, Christless, with soul unfed,
While the Church's ailment is fullness of bread,
Eating her morsel alone?

"I am debtor alike to the Jew and the Greek,"
The mighty Apostle cried,
Traversing continents, souls to seek
For the love of the Crucified;
Centuries, centuries, since have sped;
Millions are famishing; we have bread;
But we eat our morsel alone.

Ever of them who largest dower
Shall Heaven require the more;
Ours is affluence, knowledge, power,
Ocean from shore to shore;
And East and West in our ears have said,
"Give us, give us your Living Bread";
Yet we eat our morsel alone.

"Freely, as ye have received, so give,"
He bade, who hath given us all;
how shall the soul in us longer live,
Deaf to their starving call,
For whom the Blood of the Lord was shed,
And his Body broken to give them Bread,
If we eat our morsel alone?
Some might hear this poem as meant to induce guilt. If it does it is likely only because folks recognize the reality. But at the heart of this poem, Alexander hits upon the great abundance that God has given us in the person of his Son. "Ours is affluence, knowledge, power..." not necessarily as the world measures it, but in the body and blood of Jesus, in his atoning death, we find meaning and purpose and connection with the divine life.

No comments: