Category Archives: Fall 2019

Be Thou My Vision: A Reflection

By Bella Gamboa, Jonathan Edwards ’22. Bella in majoring in Humanities.

Even in times when I feel farthest from God, hymns have had a singular ability to remind me of who He is and of his presence. The value of song has clear Biblical precedent, particularly in the Psalms (which themselves were designed to be sung!). The psalmist frequently presents song as an imperative part of a relationship with God, such as in Psalm 98:4-5: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” Praise to God overflows in song, and so singing also reminds us of who we are in Him and how we ought to relate to Him. With all that in mind, what follows is a brief meditation on several verses from one of my favorite hymns, “Be Thou My Vision.”

 

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart 

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art 

Thou my best Thought, by day or by night 

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light 

 

God’s presence at the center of one’s life is essential to the Christian life; He is not to be kept on the periphery, relevant only at certain times or in certain spheres, but He is intended to always be central. He ought to be primary in our sight, what we see and look to above all. And when God occupies His appropriate place in our lives, He, in His overwhelming greatness and perfection, is sufficient for us and our needs. This verse recalls Paul, who said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). God is incomprehensibly, indescribably superior to anything else.

 

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word 

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord 

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son 

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one 

 

As undergraduates, we seem to endlessly pursue knowledge; whether compelled or enthused, we accrue information and skills in various classes, extracurriculars, and conversations with our peers. And knowledge is certainly valuable, but we must be careful to put the quest for it in context — the Bible makes a distinction between different sorts of wisdom or knowledge. In Matthew 11:25, Jesus thanks God that “‘[He has] hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.’” Here, Jesus refers to the inability of his learned, worldly wise contemporaries, like the Pharisees, to appreciate who He is, while children can grasp it. Yalies certainly occupy a position similar to that of “‘the wise and understanding’” — we know a great deal about coding, or carbon compounds, or Caravaggio. But true, Godly wisdom does not lie in these things, as “Be Thou My Vision” reminds us; indeed, David might call the wise of Matthew fools, for the “fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). God himself is our wisdom. Knowing him provides deeper, truer fulfillment and wisdom than knowing all the material for any course. Furthermore, we have the opportunity for continual companionship with God, as he is our Father, and, through the Holy Spirit, he dwells within us. This continual presence enables God to be our vision and our wisdom, for he is unwaveringly present.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise 

Thou mine Inheritance, now and always 

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart 

High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

 

This verse is somewhat intimidating to me — I certainly value and hang onto the praise of my professors and peers, and could hardly say that I treat it as if it is “empty.” But, as with Paul in Philippians, the hymn’s dismissal of earthly standards, of wealth and repute, are not arbitrary or melancholy. These are not inherently bad things, but they are so insignificant because God is so much greater. When He is first in our hearts and central in our sight, we have no need for worldly, and almost inevitably disappointing, means of raising ourselves up. 

He alone is our Father, our Treasure, and our King, and He is eternally deserving of our song — let us join as the “heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Inclusivity in Worship

By Anthony Hejduk, Pauli Murray ’20. Anthony is majoring in Philosophy.

What does it mean for a worship space to be inclusive? Or more generally, what does it mean for a Christian community to be? As the Church across the world grapples with declining membership and increased fragmentation, especially in the West, this question is on the forefront, maybe more so now than ever before. But what is inclusion? And whom is it for? It seems to me that there are a few different senses by which one can understand inclusion. For brevity’s sake, I’ll limit myself to discussing three of them: ideological inclusion, experiential inclusion, and dispositional inclusion. 

Ideological inclusion in worship is the idea that a service should encompass as many different beliefs as possible, and should not make statements which would exclude different belief systems. This is the kind of inclusivity in worship which might be sought after in a Unitarian church. Regardless of the individual beliefs that one holds, the worship service will be geared towards allowing a general kind of religious expression that does not require specific beliefs to be fruitful. While this might be sought in worship services for other religions or worship service analogues, like baccalaureates or certain kinds of weddings or funerals, it seems that this cannot truly be present in authentic Christian worship. True, there is real value in minimizing the importance of certain political, economic, or nationalistic beliefs in worship, to the extent that division is not created in the body of Christ. But the belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rose from the dead and through His sacrifice we may be justified before God, must be present and conveyed in Christian worship if it is to truly be worship in the Christian sense. As exclusive as beliefs like this might be, and as uncomfortable as they might make worship services for those who do not hold them, they are non-negotiable for members of the Christian faith. The other forms of inclusion, however, are not so simple, and may legitimately divide honest members of the Christian community. 

Experiential inclusion in worship is the idea that a service should require no background in that specific worship practice to participate. There would be no kind of assumed knowledge present about things like memorized prayers, specific actions like kneeling at specific times, or other aspects present in a formal liturgy. Many protestant churches more or less achieve this, as they require little to no background to participate, and if there is specialized knowledge, it is usually minimized or in some way explicitly broadcasted (worship lyrics being put on a tv, for example). Discussions of inclusivity often focus on this issue, and not without reason. The idea that newcomers might find a worship space to be a confusing and unwelcome place is a natural concern, and making genuine efforts to alleviate this is laudable. 

Dispositional inclusion is the most complicated of these terms, and it refers, broadly, to the ability of a worship service to include members with broadest reach of natural reactions to and tendencies for specific kinds of worship. The easiest way to understand this concept is to look at what might violate this kind of inclusion. Worship that expects a kind of reaction from the congregation to be legitimate, anywhere from raising one’s arms and swaying to speaking in tongues, prizes a kind of dispositional reaction to stimuli and a certain expression of this reaction. Worship that likewise expects a mere silent reaction when some would want to make their praise clear and vocal also excludes, albeit in a different manner. 

Putting ideological inclusion aside, is there a kind of worship that is experientially inclusive, dispositionally inclusive, and still fruitful? For me, a high church service conducted in an ancient language is the extreme between complete dispositional inclusion and experiential exclusion, such as a Latin or Greek Orthodox mass. Nothing is required from the congregation in worship except attention and prayer; the only participation in worship is the communal embrace of God or reception of the Eucharist, none of which requires a specific reaction for inclusion. Hypothetically, members from all over the world, with no common language, class, culture, or even reactive disposition, could worship together in this manner. On the other end of the spectrum is a worship service that is essentially reactive and participatory, with worship music and altar calls that are geared towards new members, no formal prayers that would require prior knowledge, and an atmosphere that closely mimics common experience, like lectures or concerts. 

While I think that a medium can be found between these two extremes, I would caution too zealous of an approach from the side of what is usually meant by inclusivity, experiential inclusivity. The idea that these high church worship services can be made enjoyable and fruitful by moving to a more engaging and participatory worship style might be true for people with generally similar natural dispositions to the same style of worship, but as soon as one is prized, those who naturally react in a different way would be excluded. And as a service becomes less formal, it becomes less universal as well: Catholics can genuinely worship in any Catholic church in the nation, and in many cases, the world, with only a basic familiarity with the mass, thanks to its universal formality. A church that seeks to include new members by removing formal aspects of liturgy ignores the specific kind of new member outreach that a formal, geographically inclusive, that is, universal, liturgy provides. 

Translations of Swahili Hymns

by Vienna Scott, Benjamin Franklin ’21

For the reader’s edification in meditation and appreciation of Swahili culture and language.

Simama Fanya Vita

1. Simama Fanya vita, askari wa Yesu!

Tuinue bendera ya ushindi wake!

Yeye huyaongoza, majeshi yake huku

Adui wote pia, Bwana awashinda.

2. Sikia baragumu, linalotuita!

Tuendelee mbele, lengo ni kushinda!

Tusiogope kamwe, hatari za vitani,

Pigana na adui, kwa nguvu za Mungu!

3. Simama fanya vita, kwa jina la Yesu!

Yafaa sisi sote, kumtegemea.

Na kwanza tuzivae, silaha zake Mungu!

Tukeshe siku zote, tuombe kwa bidi!

4. Shindano letu hapa, hima litakwisha,

Ndipo tutapumzika, baada ya vita.

Na kila mshindaji, atapokea taji,

Na utukufu mwingi, karibu na Mungu.

 

Stand Up and Fight (Make War)

Stand up and make war, soldiers of Christ

Raise the flag of his victory

He leads his forces here

All the enemies also, the Lord overcomes them

Hear the trumpet, calling us!

Let’s move forward, the goal is to win!

We should not be afraid, dangers of war

Fight the enemy, by the power of God!

Stand up and fight, in the name of Jesus!

It is good for us all to depend on him

And first let’s put on the armor of God

Let us always watch, pray earnestly!

Our contest here, it will end quickly

Then we will rest, after the war/battle

And every winner, he will receive a crown,

And much glory, near God

Ninashikwa na Kiu

1. Ninashikwa na kiu, Bwana, unipe maji,

Maji ya uhai ndani ya Maisha yangu.

:/: Bwana, Bwana, Yesu Mfalme wangu!

2. Moyo wangu wakupenda, Bwana

Mungu wangu. Nitakuja lini kwako,

Bwana Mfalme wangu?

3. Mchana na usiku Bwana nakulilia. Watu

Wanasema: “Mungu wako yuko wapi?”

4. Huzuni moyoni mwangu, Bwana Mungu wangu

Watu wengi wadharau, Mungu ‘wasamehe!

5. Twashikamana pamoja kwenda juu mbinguni.

Twashukuru, twafurahi kushirikiana.

6. Mwokozi, nguvu zaishaje moyoni mwangu?

Unisaidie Bwana, nitakushukuru.

I am thirsty

I am caught with thirst (I thirst), Lord, please give me water

Water of life in my life

Lord, Lord, Jesus my King!

My heart loves you, Lord

My God. when will I come to you

Lord my King?

Afternoon and night Lord I will cry for you. People

say: “ Where is your God?”

Sorrow in my heart, Lord my God

Many people full of hatred, God forgive them!

We cling to each other to go up to heaven

We are thankful, we are happy to cooperate

Savior, why am I running short of strength in my heart

Help me Lord, I will thank you.

 

Ni Siku Tukufu

1. Ni siku tukufu, haleluya, amina,

Ya kupum-zika, haleluya, amina.

Tuache shughuli tumwabudu Mungu,

Bwana wa mbinguni, haleluya amina.

2. Ni siku tukufu, haleluya, amina.

Tukufu kabisa, haleluya, amina.

Njoni ndugu zangu, tumwabudu Mungu,

Kwa roho na kweli, haleluya, amina.

3. Ni siku tukufu, haleluya, amina.

Ya furaha mno, haleluya, amina.

Yesu ‘kafufuka, na sasa yu hai,

Anatuombea, haleluya, amina.

4. Ni siku tukufu, haleluya, amina,

Ndiyo maarufu, haleluya, amina.

Tunaye Mwokozi atuokoaye,

Sasa na milele haleluya, amina.

5. Ni siku tukufu, haleluya, amina,

Siku ya neema, haleluya, amina.

Tangazeni Neno la Bwana Mwokozi,

Msifuni daima, haleluya, amina.

 

It is a glorious day

it is a glorious day, hallelujah, amen

For rest, hallelujah, amen

we stop things to worship God

Lord in heaven, hallelujah amen

it is a glorious day, hallelujah, amen

Absolutely glorious, hallelujah amen

Come my brothers, we worship God

By spirit and truth, hallelujah, amen.

it is a glorious day, hallelujah, amen.

Of great joy, hallelujah, amen.

Jesus, risen and now alive

He is praying for us, hallelujah, amen.

it is a glorious day, hallelujah, amen.

Yes remarkable, hallelujah, amen.

We have a savior who saves us

Now and forever, hallelujah, amen.

it is a glorious day, hallelujah, amen.

Day of grace, hallelujah, amen

Declare the word of the Lord Savior

Praise him always, hallelujah, amen

 

Shape and be Shaped, Love and be Loved

By Raquel Sequeira, Yale Timothy Dwight ’21

At the start of each new school year, I find myself auditing my relationships: Who are my true friends that I will make the time to invest in this semester? Who are my fake friends—or friends I’ve been fake to? Who are the people that I wave to but don’t remember their names or where I know them from? (Thank God for the Yale Facebook, am I right?) I tally up the relationships I can’t wait to deepen this year, and those that I feel guilty about for my negligence.

Then I ask myself the more uncomfortable question: Who am I when I am with each of these people? Sometimes I feel like a many-sided shape:a prism with plenteous faces, rotating like a magnet into the orientation that seems to attract those around me. It’s not that I’m a totally different person with different people,but it’s clear that my society shapes my personality.

It’s easy to fret overour social life, but we often fail tothink about our relationships enough—or at least, not with enough intentionality. There are only three meals a day (two on weekends!) and so many people to get a meal with. Relationships are an investment, and not a cheap one in a time and season of life when time feels like our most valuable resource.

But these are investments worth making. Because I believe in a relational Creator, I believe we are designed for relationship. My identity isnot only about my individuality, but about my relationshipswith the Creator and with fellow-creatures. This attitude sets Christians apart. Relationships are central to who we are: as individuals and as children of the Kingdom.

The Psalms and Proverbs are clear on this point: your character is shaped and judged by the people you hang out with. We are told not even to be in the vicinity of “scoffers”, “fools”, or people contemplating evil (Psalm 1, Prov. 4). We are also instructed that “as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another” and “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”(Prov. 27:17, 18:24). We are vulnerable to the influence of others, for ill and for good.

Even beyond our individual worlds that often seem so small, scripture gives us a glimpse into the role of our relationships at the scale of the eternal Kingdom. Jesus promises that our Christ-centered relationships will be sanctified into priesthoods. (“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).)  His disciples and apostles went off in pairs to heal the sick, proclaim good news and freedom, and change the world. God uses our relationships to reveal Himself to us, giving us a taste of Holy love, sacrifice, and unity. Sometimes, God puts people into our lives against our inclination, giving us a chance to mature in humility and generosity, and in doing so—often unbeknownst to us—He makes us instruments of His grace.

If you also feel like a many-faced magnet in your varied field of friends, ask yourself who you’re willing to be vulnerable with. It’s hard, and not every acquaintance can become a deep, life-shaping friendship. Nevertheless, practicing relational vulnerability—the true and terrifying giving of ourselves—is the way we allow Christ to shine through our cracks and build bridges of love where we can’t. And this practice is a positive feedback loop: the more we risk true, vulnerable relationship, the more we channel God’s true love for others, making us less afraid and more genuine as we go on.

“For what do we live,” says Jane Austen’s great social critic, Mr. Bennett, in Pride and Prejudice, “but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” Like most of Austen’s characters, Mr. Bennett’s cynicism veils a nugget of truth. Our lives really are all about relationship: first with our Creator (a stunning, humbling, worship-inducing thought) and also with our fellow-creatures. Let us pray for wisdom and true love in our relationships this year.

Two Ways to Get Home

By Bradley Yam, Saybrook ’21. Bradley is majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics.

The summer crickets are loud in the bush and will be for some time before the cold wipes them out, leaving new eggs to hatch in the spring. This is the sound of a new academic year beginning: things living, things thriving, things dying, things starting again. College is a place filled with worry enough, especially for bright-eyed newcomers to the hallowed halls of the Academy. Those among them who have faith often carry an added burden: the fear of losing it.

The initial excitement and glittering celebration at admission is dampened by the first relative to say with a genuinely concerned expression, “Ah, but you will still go to Church right?” Or perhaps “Be careful and only take classes in Math and Engineering.” They only mean well, but their abashed tone tells you that they might secretly have regrets about encouraging you to apply in the first place. Then might come an awkward conversation with your pastor, perhaps a youth pastor, a young man who found the trial of college terrifying and is now trying his best to gird you properly for doubt inevitable without being the cause of it himself.

The truth is that many such small things foment a fear of the foreign. This is a sign of the more worrying tendency for churches to isolate themselves—from disagreement, from controversy, and often from both traditional and contemporary context. The end result is that Christian communities can become disconnected from the cultures they exist within. We should be salt and light in the world, existing in tension with the culture of the day. Instead, we have become in some respects a navel-gazing in-group, obsessed with an idealized version of the past.

There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there, said G.K. Chesterton. I add that the home you keep is quite different from the one you find. One would never be able to point a stranger back to a home they had never left. Chesterton continues: the other way is to walk around the whole world till we come back to the same place. I am suggesting that this is the necessary walk of faith for the young Christian today. The world is coming to us faster that we can go out to it. We can no longer afford to stay at home, especially if we have already gone off to college!

The walk (or way) may be narrow, but it sure is not straightforward or the same for every person. Here are some universal encouragements.

(1) Practice your faith like you practice an instrument or a sport, even if you don’t entirely understand it. In fact, practice it precisely because you don’t entirely understand it. Faith is less a feeling and more a discipline. You can be open about your uncertainties. Faith is also not a set of propositions, but a lived reality, and you should feel freedom to question the propositions that are merely the descriptors and not the foundation of faith. You may question Newton’s equations, but not the falling apple that strikes you on the head.

(2) Understand your context, even if your faith is in the transcendent. We are (helplessly, as much as I hate to say it), social and temporal beings. Thus, our faith is socialized and cultured according to the times. But this faith is supposed to be in an unchanging, transcendent God—is this a paradox? Perhaps, but I prefer the word mystery. “We have this treasure in jars of clay”(2 Cor. 4-7). Our God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Transcendent himself, deigned to become contextualized, temporal, physical—incarnate. In this,he shows us that the transcendent shines not apart from but through the contextual. Understanding our own context, the traditions that have shaped us, and how we are markedly different from others who have arrived at this same place allow us to discern this truth faithfully.

(3) We ought not shy away from deconstruction. We can do it better. In order to be faithful, Christians have always deconstructed the world around them, seeing past the glitter and the gold through to what lies beneath. What is the world pursuing, what are you most tempted to pursue? Fame? Money? Acclaim? A successful deconstruction is one that allows you to see better, to see what truly matters. C.S. Lewis said that if you see through everything, then everything is transparent. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see. Strive to see what is of ultimate worth and value.

(4) Find a community of faith that practices consistently. Two is better than one, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken, says the Ecclesiaster. This is because the practice of our faith is a communal practice, like a team sport. Of course, the practice of faith as a community is infinitely more complex, difficult, and fraught with risk than any sport, but also infinitely more worthwhile, magical, and life-giving than any individual practice of faith can hope to be.

(5) Engage vigorously with difference. There is no lack of lines to be drawn in our world, and there are many voices insisting that you may not empathize or understand across the boundaries of your specific religion, race, ethnicity, gender, class, what have you. Discourse is embattled. So be all the more brave and courageous in the face of censure, since you are seeking to love and understand. In doing so, your faith will be challenged to be valid in the diversity of experiences you will encounter. This is surely a good thing.

The summer crickets are loud in the bush now. I must go do the dishes and take the laundry out and decide on classes—most of which are not Math or Engineering. I must remember to pray before I go to bed, and next week I will go to church and bible study. For now, the incessant chirping reminds me that I have come to find home.