Wednesday, November 04, 2009

At Almost Every Service I Attend, I Remember God's Mercy

by Nathan Carr, All Soul's Episcopal Church
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

In most every service I attend, the opening sentence of the Order for Daily Morning Prayer crosses my mind as either the bell tolls or the priest enters, “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” What an interesting thing to say right before we do a lot of talking!

Upon further reading, I noticed from the same chapter in Habakkuk the following: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” I look around the chapel in anticipation of that Scripture’s fulfillment…but with only two minutes to go, it appears that only one kneeler will be used this morning. I shall really have to speak up now! Right on cue, the priest begins, “The Lord is in his Holy Temple!” Will three voices be enough “water” this morning to fill the earth?

Next to me is my three-year-old son. His two eyes barely peer out over the top of the oaken pew, as he struggles to balance those tiny legs on the kneeler. Whether he’s presently thinking about it or not, I have told him a number of times that today’s service, just like yesterday’s and last night’s, is another celebration of mercy. In fact, Habakkuk comes to mind again! “O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known: in wrath remember mercy.”

Then, as we admit to "provoking most justly [God’s] wrath and indignation against us,” we confess together. I feel very justified in my recollection of Habakkuk, and I find myself already looking forward to Cranmer’s prayer after the consecration, "but Thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy” - mercy that turns the hearts of parents to their children; mercy that allows an ingathering of the saints even to this service with these prayers. I wonder if Habakkuk knew just how far forward his prophetic words would reach?

Confession really is the exhale of the church—for we know also from Habakkuk that “him that establisheth a city by iniquity” stands condemned already. This City, though—the great City of our God—its ramparts are forged in the labor that is love; the labor that is mercy; the labor that is worship. Its ramparts are forged by three-year-olds and awkward fathers.

As I again look down at my Gentile son who now lisps on what would’ve been an unknown continent, I realize how pleasing a thought it would have been for Habakkuk, at the hour of his transcription, to see this time and place of his still-used words. Truly, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord has covered the earth as the waters cover the sea. I bow my teary eyes in silence next to my son, knowing full well the indwelling Lord is in his holy Church.

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