"Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" is a hymn with words taken from a longer poem, “The Brewing of Soma” by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. A couple of lines from this wonderful hymn have been on my mind during the last couple of months as we have had news of hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and mass shootings.
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
These words are inspired by a passage of Scripture, I Kings 19:11-13, in which the Prophet Elijah is struggling to hear God’s voice. God tells Elijah to go and stand before the holy mountain. When he does, there is a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But he is not able to hear the “still small voice” of God in the midst of any of those numinous, frightening, destructive events. He is only able to hear God’s voice in the silence that follows.
Elijah is asking God, “Where are you and what are you doing?” But when the response comes from God, it is God who is asking the questions: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Maybe we have been trying to hear God’s voice and wondering what God is doing in the face of all these horrific events that have destroyed life and property, dashed hopes, and undermined our sense of security. “Where are you, God, and what are you doing?”
But, as we see from Elijah’s experience, silence may be the environment in which we are finally able to hear – to reflect, to discern, to understand – the Divine Voice.
And when we do hear the Voice, we may hear the same question that Elijah heard: “What are you doing here, Ron?” Here, at this point in time, in this place, in the aftermath of the wind, the earthquake, the fire, and the violence.
God and God’s people have been responding to all of those tragedies, offering hope, healing, and relief to people whose lives have been suddenly torn apart. Episcopal Relief and Development, for example, has people in place, working with local relief agencies and authorities to take immediate steps to help. The members of St. Andrew’s Cathedral have sent contributions to Episcopal Relief and Development to provide the funding needed to carry out the work that needs doing. Some have made their contributions directly, and others have contributed through the Cathedral. Thus far, we have sent $7,370 for hurricane relief.
Soon, it will be time to respond to calls for teams of people to go to affected areas and get physically involved. This article by ERD head Rob Radtke provides a helpful description of what is being done and what each of us can do to help in the days ahead. The Episcopal Diocese of Nevada is providing support and advocacy following the massacre in Las Vegas. And people around the world are joining their voices in prayer for the victims and for divine guidance for those who work to make do the things and make the changes that will protect God’s children.
Thank you for what you are doing. When the time comes for a call to go, I hope we will have people with the physical strength and time to respond. In every case, may we continue to listen for God’s voice!
Here's a beautiful recording of that hymn, sung by the Choir of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire, England.
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral