I’ve been listening to A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief and appreciating how it is packed with great principles centered around the Savior – healing of wounds, selfless sacrifice, the Atonement, bread of life/living waters, a life of service, etc. But today I specifically read the scriptures referenced at the bottom of the hymn – Mosiah 2:17 and Matthew 25:31-40. I’m sure you can recite the verse in Mosiah, but maybe (like me) you aren’t as familiar with Matthew 25.
This specific section of verses is where the Savior gives the parable of the sheep and the goats. The message is much the same as in Mosiah, but as I was reading it today I had a light bulb moment. When I’d thought of serving man as the same as serving God, I think I thought of it mostly in terms of equality and value in all people. Or maybe as instruction that we get just as much credit for helping those around us as we’d get if the Savior stood in front of us needing our help. And that’s a great principle. We should be willing and quick to help anyone, and not be respecters of persons.
But today I read it in a different way. The Savior tells the sheep that they are blessed because they visited, fed, clothed, and took Him in – they are confused and He responds that when they did any of that for anyone, they did it to/for Him. Today the thought came to me that Christ literally meant they provided that comfort and aid for Him when they were serving others. We read that the Savior has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows so, when we help alleviate the suffering of others, we literally alleviate or prevent some of those griefs and sorrows. His load is the sum of all the loads felt by all the people who ever lived on earth, and we can reduce that load through our love and service. I love the directness of this! I’ve always believed in the value of service, and somewhat connected it to serving God in that any good we do pleases God. But I love the idea that we can literally lift some small, small part of Christ’s burden, literally serve Him and serve God by helping our fellow men.
As a side note, something I’m less excited about but which still struck me today was the end of Matthew 25. The Savior turns to address the goats and condemns them, but not for the sins you typically see associated with condemnation in the scriptures. They are condemned for not visiting the sick, not feeding the hungry, etc. And then he says, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” I think it’s interesting that we don’t hear this verse much in comparison to the one given to the sheep. Possibly because this one sets a much higher standard. Sins of omission are so much subtler and harder to catch than those of commission. We always have excuses for sins of omission – I don’t have time to visit that person, or that person doesn’t really need or want my help.
And as evidenced by the goats in the parables, not helping others is sinful and it’s almost doubly bad because not only do we not alleviate some of Christ’s burden, we add our own need for forgiveness and increase the volume of pain Christ experienced through the Atonement.
Anyway, that might be kind of a downer way to end. I’m focusing on the sheep – I believe in the power of service!
I was listening to A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief on a plane yesterday and was struck by the end of the fifth verse. The first part of that verse is essentially the parable of the Good Samaritan, but the second part the Samaritan says he has (himself) a wound concealed, but from that hour forgot the smart, And peace bound up (his) broken heart.
“Concealed wounds” could cover a lot of different things though the one that came immediately to my mind was guilt. Maybe it’s not right to think of guilt as a wound, but I think it is, albeit a self-inflicted one. In my experience it’s deeply painful, and possibly more so because of the fact that I did it to myself. Alma says guilt should only trouble us to bring us down to repentance, a wound with a point I suppose, and that verse makes it seem like there is this distinct arrival or end point – down to repentance.
There is so much poetic and beautiful (at least in the eye of this beholder) language about the relief of repentance. Just one example I find to be pretty powerful: Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see. I also happened to see a post by a friend on Facebook yesterday, whose comments really struck me:
“I’ve been guilty of flattering myself into believing that my sins and my sorrow could be too big for Christ. But that’s because I failed to grasp the depth and intensity of His love and His power to lead us out of the darkness and into the day. To quote George Elliot, “It’s NEVER too late to be what you might have been.” It’s never too late for Christ to shower you with love and blessings. You cannot run far or fast enough to be beyond the reach of His redemption.”
I could go on and on about language I find so compelling on this topic, but I’m sure you’re well aware of it. I love it all, in a poignant sort of way. I believe in the power of repentance, I believe peace and relief can be found through Christ. I have absolutely felt a difference in spirituality over the last few months, and I love the idea of forgetting the smart of some wounds and feeling peace binding up my broken heart.
I really believe and am grateful for the fact that God delights in the song of the heart and that the song of the righteous is a prayer unto Him. I don’t really have the prayer thing figured out yet, but I feel a degree of that communion when I sing or listen to hymns and other church music. I can’t express my feelings well in conversation, but I identify with the second verse of There is Sunshine in My Soul Today: There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King, and Jesus listening can hear, the songs I cannot sing.
I’m no poetry expert but I think the language in the hymns is incredibly poetic. Phrases like truth’s sublime effulgent rays or my friendship’s utmost zeal to try or the dove of peace sings in my heart – and I could go on and on and on – are just so eloquent and expressive how I think or feel.
When I read or sing the hymns I am able to express my most heartfelt beliefs and desires, my feelings about the gospel, my gratitude for friends and family, etc. and I know that God hears those expressions directly, without any of the limitations of my mental or verbal communication.