Today I'm sharing a brief thought inspired by the first hymn we sang yesterday. It was composed by one of my favorite hymn writers, Brian Wren. Along with Carlton Young, Brian Wren led a workshop at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville nearly 25 years ago that was formative for me in expanding images for the Sacred and promoting inclusive language.
Our service yesterday began with a hymn by the prolific, prophetic, and poetic Brian Wren. “We Are Not Our Own” holds in tension two Christian faith claims: 1)We are not our own, and 2) We are not alone. Verse 1 of the song leads with the first statement; verse 2, with the second.
We are not alone. That’s the essence of our faith claim. When Neil Armstrong, who died Saturday, planted the first human foot on the moon, he was not alone on that desolate orb. You and I are not alone. We are connected to one another in a union with the All-Encompassing Love of God. As individuals, as a species, as a planet, we are not alone. There is The More. There is a Love that has formed us and holds all together.
We are not our own. That is our faith’s claim upon our lives. We do not merely connect to but also belong to one another in our obligations of care. We have been shaped by others. And we must live a life “for others”—to use a Jesuit phrase. We owe one another “liturgies of care”—to use a phrase from Wren’s hymn.
“We are not alone” reminds me of God’s enduring care. It speaks comfort.
“We are not our own” reminds me of God’s persistent call. It speaks of responsibility.
As residents of the Gulf Coast living in the path of Hurricane Isaac, our prayers are undergirded by the assurance that we are not alone, and our actions to help neighbors in the wake of the storm will be guided by the reminder that we our not our own.
And so we hear this rhyming couplet as comforting and challenging:
We are not alone.
We are not our own.