Bristol United Church of Christ     "The Church on the Hill"
Bristol United Church of Christ         "The Church on the Hill"  

Pastor's Corner

The Pastor’s Pen

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, 
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood, or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

The hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past (above), written in the 18th century by Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody, is based on Psalm 90. Verse 12 of the psalm reads: “So teach us to count our days that we may have a wise heart.” 
As we turn the calendar over to another new year, this verse, this psalm, and this hymn speak to me. I don’t want to count the days like a prisoner scratching marks on the wall of a cell to keep track of my sentence, to keep hope of my release alive. I want to count each day as a precious gift from God. A new day is the gift of life for right here and right now in this present moment. I may fill the new day with love, friendship, Christian action, care for others, public witness for justice, prayer and action for the least of these, or even with a time for some self-care. Of course, I could also fill the new day with grumbling, judgement, inertia, self-righteousness, and self-indulgence. I guess we all can do some of each of those kinds of things, the positive and the negative ones.
The great, good news of the new year and the new day is just that: it is new. Each day is a new beginning, a fresh start. Is there trouble in the world? Yes, there is. Can any one of us fix it all, fix it all by ourselves? No. But we can all do our part: small things and larger ones if we are able. Will we have difficult days; days in which we are self-focused rather than other-focused or God-focused?  Yes, of course there will be. But again, each day is a new gift of life to follow Christ more closely and to thank God more earnestly. We could do worse than end each day or begin each new one with a simple prayer – “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” This comforting thought, this simple act of praise, can orient us rightly and align us more nearly with God, from who all good things come. We might even count each new day as an opportunity for growing wiser in our hearts, for living more closely the love of God in the world.

New Year’s and New Day’s Blessings,

Rev. Andrew