NOTEworthy November 8

Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace – Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on thee.
The darkness is no darkness with thee,
but the night is as clear as the day.
The darkness and the light to thee are both alike.
God is light and with him is no darkness at all.
Oh let my soul live, and it shall praise thee,
for thine is the kingdom, the power,
and the glory, for evermore.

Isaiah 26 v. 3; Psalm 139 v. 11;
1 John 1 v. 5; Psalm 119 v. 175

This piece by Samuel Sebastian Wesley is another perfect piece. I’m sure if you have been reading this column for any length of time, you probably think I say that of almost every piece, but that’s just because I have the luxury of only sharing with you the music that moves me.

Speaking of moving, there is one line and one word within that line that draws my attention in this piece, and it is the very first lines sung:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on thee.

Stayed on thee. It’s those three words that always get me. Because surely I look to God, surely I lean on Him, but am I stayed on Him? Stayed in the way that this text means it?

Mini Life announcement: Casey and I got a dog. So we are becoming very very familiar with the idea of “Stay” and the challenges that come with it. Our little black lab, Stella, for all her preciousness is kinda hit or miss with “stay,” and though it’s not exactly flattering, I think her struggles with “stay” reflect our own struggles with it, too.

If we are outside, in a new place, and there are things to see and smell and do – it is pretty unlikely that a successful “stay” will happen on the first command with Stella.

Similarly, I know I find it hard to be stayed in God’s perfect piece when I am overstimulated with the busyness and stressors of life.

If we are at home, and, importantly, if there is a treat involved, Stella can often do a terrific stay. We can walk away, out of her sight even, just so long as she still hears our voice saying “Staaaaay” as we do so and a treat is promptly and justly rewarded after a good “stay.”

I think a lot of Christians hold our faiths in a similar manner sometimes. Heaven is the treat for a life well lived in faith. “Blessings” are treats along the way, reminding us to “stay” and be good. This is why verses like Matthew 7:21 are used to remind people that, “you may be good, but you never know…better be extra good if you want the treat” as if heaven is a carrot God hangs over our heads.

The trouble is that a reward-centric faith like this inevitably becomes a works-based faith, of which there are countless warnings against in the good book (Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:21, Romans 4:1-7). If we “stay” in order to recieve our reward, we keep ourselves from experiencing perfect peace because this type of expectancy almost inevitably leads to entitlement – “I have been good – tithed, volunteered, prayed, and thus I should now receive my due perfect peace.”

The great irony of this is that the “action” done is to stay.

In other words, just be.

Amidst the action of life, of good works, allow yourself the perfect peace of simply staying with the Lord. In staying there is no deadline, no obligation, no action whatsoever. Just think on God. Be with God. And stay on Him.

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church