Sunday, April 24, 2011

Prone to wander

(Religion-related musings ahead.)

Because Easter fell particularly late this year, there were a couple of oddities on our personal calendar. For one thing, as previously mentioned, it's also my mom's birthday. For another, our church held stake conference this Sunday. If you're unfamiliar with the LDS phenomenon of stake conference, briefly, it's a half-yearly gathering of several local congregations (known as wards or branches) to receive insight and instruction.

It's a pretty good bet that, whenever Mormons are gathered, music is going to be involved at some point. (Also, quite often, refreshments... but that's fodder for another post.) The stake choir sang a Mack Wilberg arrangement of the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing" that was well worth hearing. Personally, I believe Brother Wilberg is on a one-man mission to restore this old hymn to its rightful place in the LDS hymnal by creating arrangements of it that are pretty much impossible to ignore. This version, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and full orchestration to back it up, is one example, but there are several others. I've found, though, that the words of the hymn, even more than the beauty of its arrangement, are what tend to reach me where it counts.

Christians are not better than other people. Sometimes we are worse. If we truly lived by the principles Jesus taught, we would be better than we often are, but most of us fall far short of that ideal. We do stupid things. We are petty and jealous, we hurt others with our cruel words and thoughtless actions, and we commit sins, just as all human beings do. Doing these things not only hurts others, but it hurts us, separating us from God, the ultimate source of joy. But we believe that there's a way out of the mistakes and sins we commit -- not because of any goodness or nobleness on our own part, but because that same God has made repentance possible through the unique and powerful gift of Christ to the world. For reasons none of us fully understand, the willing sacrifice of a sinless life makes it possible for us to turn around and come back, to make it right with those we've harmed, and to return to the God we love. That's why we celebrate Easter -- because the ultimate Paschal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the grace of the Atonement, makes it possible for us to become better than what we now are.

I love the lyrics of this song because they reflect the twisting, meandering path to truth many Christians take on their route back to God. Often we don't come willingly to Christ -- it's more as though he comes and finds us. In the words of one of the verses, "Jesus sought me when a stranger, wand'ring from the fold of God." The refrain of the song, which Bro. Wilberg has chosen to echo through most of the verses, resonates with anyone who identifies as a Christian and who has done things occasionally not in keeping with his or her faith (read: all of us) -- "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it -- prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above." We don't do it alone, because we can't. That someone is willing to rescue us from the danger we too often place ourselves in is cause for great humbling and greater joy.

Happy Easter.

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