To Read: Click on song title to watch a video
If ever I would leave you
It wouldn’t be in summer.
Seeing you in summer
I never would go.
Your hair streaked with sunlight,
Your lips red as flame,
Your face with a lustre
That puts gold to shame!
But if I’d ever leave you,
It couldn’t be in autumn.
How I’d leave in autumn
I never will know.
I’ve seen how you sparkle
When fall nips the air.
I know you in autumn
And I must be there.
And could I leave you
Running merrily through the snow?
Or on a wintry evening
When you catch the fire’s glow?
If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in springtime?
Knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so?
Oh, no! not in springtime!
Summer, winter or fall!
No, never could I leave you at all!
From the Scriptures:
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I am glad it did happen. There was a moment in my life when I realised, like Lancelot in his all-consuming love for Guinevere, that I would never ever leave the love of The One Who Loves Us Best.
It was during a dark and troubling time in South Africa – I’m no hero, many people faced similar things – when I knew that if I was forced to decide between doing what my Lover wants and doing what anyone else demanded, I would choose God.
Today’s scripture verses from Philippians and the words of Polycarp at his martyrdom have become my own:
“86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong.
How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
Not that, as it was said of Irenæus, I am seeking martyrdom, but if I make (DV) 86 years of age I know that I can serve no other, He has done me no wrong, and He is my King and Saviour.
It has been a long journey full of stops and starts and diversions to get to this place but I am relieved that I am finally here, safe in the Everlasting Arms.
I grew up with a faith that was far too often about being on my best behaviour to earn the love of God. It was all about ‘Crime and Punishment’ and there was very little ‘Love and Redemption’. I am grateful for my first teachers of the faith but sometimes I have struggled with all that they have willed me in their words.
I grew up with a ‘God of the Gaps’ belief that saw me running to religion and devotion when I was in trouble, receiving forgiveness at the altar call, and not returning until the next time I messed up. This led to a life of shadows wherein I found myself stalked by guilt instead of being set free by love.
What joy to find that faith is not so much about holding on to God by my fingertips but knowing that faith is all about knowing you are held close to the bosom of Love!
No longer do I try to earn God’s love by making recompense for sins past and hoping that good deeds will earn favour and reward. Knowing that I can ‘never leave him at all’, has added a joy to my faith that I never knew was available. I know desire only to offer the best I can for God and God’s people as a thank offering for love receives instead of it being a bribe to avoid condemnation.
I used to live in fear of Psalm 139. I pictured myself being chased by a relentless God demanding penitence and perfection from whom there was nowhere to hide. Now I take comfort that, no matter what mess I get myself into, or whatever circumstance the life of faith calls me to, there is nowhere I can be that the Hound of Heaven will not find me, rescue me, and bring me home.
I have given up struggling against the all-consuming love God has for us and for the whole of creation. It’s an exhausting pointless struggle where even if I win, I lose. Surrender brings relief, joy and a great comfort.
No, never could I leave him at all.
O God who travels with us in the shadows, you know who we are.
We long for life that is full and free.
We long to know the truth
and we want to leave behind us all the things that hold us back.
We want to move forward in faith
but the way seems so dangerous
and we stand in helpless fear
before the hiddenness in our past
and in our future.
The people of Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia
If you can, quietly, without anyone watching, go to a holy place and plight your troth to the One Who Loves Us Best.
Encore: Click on song title to watch a video
So How Do You Handle a Woman? In Camelot Arthur gets it wrong and forgets his advice to ‘ to love her, simply love her, merely love her,’ and the story unravels from there.
Some advice for those of us who have found loving those close to us hard work, or even infuriating, ‘Love them, simply love them, merely love them.’
Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018
 Francis Thompson’s poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’ may be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/236/239.html