"Increase Our Faith!" They Said
I had spoken at my uncle's memorial service,
Saying the things you might expect,
The kind of guy he was, etc.
I referred to an old oral letter
He'd sent to me on cassette tape which,
On the way back to my pew,
I handed to his only child, his daughter, my cousin.
"You will love it," I said.
And then I sat down,
Satisfied that perhaps in some way,
I had increased their faith
(In God, if not in me?)
Then we sang a hymn that I didn't know
(Long before its inclusion
In the Presbyterian hymnal!)
But my brother, standing next to me,
Belted it out from memory.
His different theological route from mine
Had taken him to this place I did not know.
"Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee."
I can still hear and picture him there,
And like to think I learned,
As maybe the apostles learned,
If they heard, that day,
This new theology
This new analogy
This new hymnology,
Sung way back in Lamentations,
And later served up at table,
In life and in words (which we still play)
By a Master of such increased faithfulness
You can hardly believe it.
Scott L. Barton
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.
Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.
Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.
From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty.
Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture;
they fled without strength before the pursuer.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
+ + +
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord
replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say
to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it
would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from
plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take
your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare
supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink;
later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what
was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were
ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what
we ought to have done!'"