NOTEworthy August 16

Bring Us, O Lord God

by William Harris

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heav’n:
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.

This has got to be one of my favorite texts about Heaven, beautifully set by William Harris (1883-1973). Harris was a professor of organ and harmony at the Royal College of Music from 1923-1953. He was known in life as a gifted trainer of choirs, and is posthumously remembered for his Anglican church anthems.

This text is so striking to me because of how it seems to push against so many tropes that exist about Heaven. Often, Heaven is almost bombastic – Angel Choirs singing, streets of gold, overwhelming beauty, everyone you’ve ever known is there and it is a grand feast and celebration. Musically, we see heaven represented in an equal and opposite fashion with texts such as “Komm, Susser Tod,” which speak of Heaven as a release from responsibilities, pains, anxieties – Heaven is that great rest from Earthly toils.

This text seems to intentionally draw a different picture of a heaven perfectly balanced. Not too bright or too dark. Not too loud or too quiet. No anxieties or dreams.

Simply being.

It’s a marvelous image of the divine, and I have to admit that I am quite taken with it. I know that I have often felt that the narrow road of righteous peace feels a lot like a tightrope (Matt 7:14). Spiritually, too far in one direction and my legalistic interpretation of scripture has me judging myself and all around me by an unreachable standard. Too far the other way, and my self-interested interpretation of grace has me pursuing my own fleeting happiness rather than God’s will.

The thing about balance is that it’s easiest found when we are still.

In a world that rushes ever forward, stillness can feel like falling behind.

But balance brings peace.

And peace is a gift of God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.
Proverbs 11:1

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church