When all within is dark

The Bible readings for today are Zephaniah 3.1-2, 9-13; Psalm 34.1-6, 21-22; Matthew 21.28-32.

On Sunday night I learned of the deaths of two of my friends. Neither of them lived near enough for me to have seen them for some while. Both were members of churches I formerly pastored. One was a little older than me and had Alzheimer’s disease for quite a few years. The other was a lot older than me and was underestimated and overlooked in all kinds of ways throughout his life. They were two of the kindest people and truest followers of Jesus I have ever met. Though I couldn’t really have counted on seeing either of them much if ever again, their passing nevertheless makes me sad. I know they are ‘at home with the Lord’. Even so, their death somehow diminishes the world and my own life within it. (John Donne and all that). The world is a poorer place without them.

Well, that news and these verses about turning (back) to God got me to thinking about this beautiful prayer I came across some time ago and rediscovered on Saturday morning. The implied circumstances behind the prayer are different from my own but the references to darkness, to turning, and to the love of God make it irresistible:

When all within is dark,
and former friends misprise;
from them I turn to You,
and find love in Your eyes.
When all within is dark,
and I my soul despise;
from me I turn to You,
and find love in Your eyes.

When all Your face is dark,
and Your just angers rise;
from You I turn to You,
And find love in Your eyes.

Solomon Ibn Gabriol (c. 1021-58); translated by Israel Abrahams in Festival Studies (London: Macmillan, 1906) 100; altrd. and reprinted in Forms of Prayer (Movement for Reform Judaism, 2008), 18.

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