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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of Lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” from Liturgy of St. James
(tune: Picardy)
trans. Gerard Moultrie
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Have you ever had a moment of feeling God’s presence so profoundly that you were struck silent?

When I was eighteen, I went on a mission trip to Brazil with a group from my church and a group of young Brazilian missionaries. For a week we lived on a boat and sailed up and down the Amazon River, bringing medical care, Bible school, and other support to villages we passed. Every morning as we traveled to the next village, we would all gather on the deck and worship together for several hours.

I remember one morning in particular, with the river and the rainforest surrounding us, as we laughed and prayed and sang songs to God in both English and Portuguese—I had a moment of absolute, overwhelming awareness that God was present. It was powerful, and for just a moment I could do nothing but sit there and feel it.

These moments don’t happen all the time—often we are rushing around just catching snatches and glimpses of God whenever we can. But when we do stumble upon these moments, they are often astounding in their simplicity.

While all the intense power language in these verses can be a bit disconcerting, they are really about how amazing it is that Christ comes to us in a way that is humble rather than steeped in power and might. The phrase “fear and trembling” refers to Paul’s letter to the Romans, when he ponders the overwhelming truth that Christ became human to reach us and be present with us.

God meets us not in power and perfection but in our humble humanity—and this is indeed a striking truth. In the moments when we become particularly aware of this profound truth of God’s love, we must take a moment of silence to rejoice in it.

Loving God, you are always with us and you come to us not through might and force but through your pure and gentle love made known to us in Jesus Christ. Help us to know this truth and to take time to rejoice in it with awe and silent wonder. Amen.

Written by Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident

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