lenten journal: hymn for a night such as this


One of the highlights of my Lenten season has been my repeated listening to the new Jackson Browne tribute 81sI31ZNa5L._SL1500_project, Looking Into You. Most of the songs have been a part of the soundtrack of my life for as long as they have been public record and I love to hear him sing them, still this collection is beautiful and engaging. Many tribute projects these days look to younger performers to interpret the songs of those who came before them. On this record, the songs are covered by many of Browne’s contemporaries, even friends, offering a creative and relational resonance that offers more than just words and music. It is the sound of friendship, of people that matter to one another.

Tuesday nights during Lent have been significant because of a group of us who have gathered to talk about faith. We have called it our “Adult Confirmation Class” and we have looked together at the Bible, church history, the UCC, and then talked about how we might articulate our statements of faith — what we trust (not believe) about who God is and what God would do in our lives. The discussions have been thoughtful and meaningful and full of great questions and a growing trust between us. As I was puttering around the kitchen tonight, thinking about the evening, the band Venice sang their cover of “For a Dancer,” and I heard a hymn for a night such as this:

keep a fire burring in your eye
pay attention to the open sky
you never know what will be coming down . . .

As I sang along, I began to see the folks who have sat around the table at Fullsteam, and tonight at Geer Street Garden. One of the creative tensions we have tried to hold is between the history handed down to us — from various directions — and the faith we are working to live out in these days. These lines stuck out to me:

just do the steps that you’ve been shown
by everyone you’ve ever known
until the dance becomes your very own

The choreography of faith means both learning the old steps and coming up with some new combinations. To act as though we are without history, or that what and who have come before us hold no sway is to cut ourselves off at the roots (sorry to change metaphors); to live as though what matters most is to repeat what has already been said is to shut ourselves off from the lives behind everything from the eclipse to the empty tomb. As we sat around the table tonight, we found the freedom and safety to talk about our questions, our wounds, and the faith growing out of both, which feels as though we are sitting beside Peter and Thomas, Mary, Martha, even Judas in this week of grief and failure.

Living on this side of Easter means we want to move quickly to proclaiming “victory.” Yes, the Resurrection offers hope, but hope and certainty are not the same thing. We still have to live this thing through: as though we can trust the Story Handed Down To Us; as though we can trust each other.

Let’s sing the last verse:

keep a fire for the human race
let your prayers go drifting into space
you never know what will be coming down
perhaps a better world is drawing near
and just as easily it could all disappear
along with whatever meaning you might have found
don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
go on and make a joyful sound

I know. It’s not easy to hear that it could all disappear, and then I have known times when the meaning I thought I had found went missing. The writer of Hebrews described faith as “the substance of things not seen.” Not certainty. Trust.

Today has been a cold and rainy day in our town. Tonight, as we got up from the table, was no different. We hugged and laughed in the parking lot and then went out into the dark to find our way home, trusting, as one who came before us once proclaimed, “there is still more light to break forth.”



  1. Great perception and perspective, Milton! I too have been listening and love the album. Maybe some days you can share a little from “Your Bright Baby Blues” …. several lines that really “touch” me!

  2. I realize it is September. But I read this again tonight as I watched the sunset and listened to Henley’s rendering of “These Day’s.” Thank you, my friend, for your gift of words and the insights that you so willingly share.

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