Malcolm Guite, “Our Mother-tongue Is Love” – A Sonnet for Pentecost

Here is Malcolm Guite’s poem for Pentecost Sunday, “Our Mother-tongue is Love.” This sonnet is taken from Guite’s book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year. Malcolm Guite is an Anglican priest, poet, and songwriter, who served as a Life Fellow and chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in every nation.

You can hear a recording of Malcolm Guite reading this poem here.

A Prayer of Thanks for the Melody of Good News

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.” (Luke 16:16)

We heard it ringing in the air—
Your voice proclaiming, “Good news! God’s Kingdom is here!”
Our hearts rose up and our ears perked up
as this message intrigued us and spoke to us.

Castaways and over-achievers, drop-outs and all-stars,
the hungry and the overfed, the thirsty and the drunkards,
the insecure and the over-confident, the sick and the well-groomed,
the misused and the misusers, the lost and those not knowing they were lost—
all of us broken sinners, poor and needy,
we heard it ringing in our ears.

When bad news dominates and ill report abounds
what You brought to us was like a fresh melody
in chaotic discord; like a cup of fresh, cool water
in a parched land; like a three-course meal
for a starved-out prisoner with no hope.

Hope—that’s what we hear in Your invitation,
and love—a love that’s eternal and unstoppable,
and joy—a joy deeper and more buoyant than any other.

We heard it ringing in the air and in our ears,
but more, we sensed it ringing in our souls.
We sensed it so deep we felt the tickle of falling fast,
and all we could do was laugh from our bellies
and sing our own soul’s melody
as You braided it in with Your good news song.

Encountering the Merciful Love of God :: Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation”

Fra Angelico - Annunciation
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation; tempera on wood; between 1433 and 1434.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

“Love is blind.” At least, that’s how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is at work, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved.  There is some truth to that. But the kind of love we all deeply desire is not a blind love, but a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind—that turns away from reality—is false love, while love that sees—that leans into reality—is real love. John 3:16 is such a revered passage of Scripture because it describes God’s love not as blind but as real love:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-47, 50)

That little word ‘mercy’ (Greek: ἔλεος) is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s real, eyes-open love for humanity and all creation.

A Morning Prayer of Closeness to God

“Let the dawn bring news
of Your unfailing love
for I put my trust in You.
Show me the road
that I must travel
for You to relieve my heart.”

(Psalm 143:8, NJB)

Early in the morning I draw away
to be only with You.
The time seems to move too quickly
and I know I must step toward what comes next.
But here, in this treasured hour,
this spot of rest and place of being,
I draw near to You—
to hear from You,
to savor You,
to delight in You,
to rest in Your love,
and to share my love with You.
I have nothing in me that is good
save the goodness You planted in me.
Neither am I overcome by evil
because You lavished grace upon me.
Keep me close to You today, God,
for You are my true joy, life, and peace.

O my soul, know the love and care of God

O my soul, know the love and care of God

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3)

O my soul,
know the love and the care of God.

When you breathed your first breath,
He heard it for He gave it.
When you took your first step and spoke your first word,
He saw and heard it for He gave the capacity for it.
At your greatest pinnacles of joy, He was there—
in that which brought you joy,
in the rising up within your spirit sensed as joy,
and din the creation of joy within human experience.
At your greatest depths of grief and brokenness, He was there—
in the sense of something good being lost,
in the longing for all things to be made right,
and in the comfort you sense in His presence.

O my soul,
know the love and the care of God.

The greatest abilities and talents you have
are a gift from Him out of love,
and your capacity to hone them, too,
is a gift from Him in love.
The most foul or broken place in your life
He knows and still loves you there,
and your sense that such places were made for more
is also a gift of His holy love to you.
The beginning of your life
and the end of your life
is treasured by Him in tender love,
and the everyday ordinary of your life—
meals and conversations, friendships and foes,
projects and recreation, longings and pursuits—
all is held in His loving hands and merciful gaze.

O my soul,
know the love and the care of God.

Look at the lilies of the field swayed
by Him in beautiful splendor,
and watch the birds of the skies
soaring to great heights on the wings He has provided.
If He cares for and loves these,
how much more does He care for and love you?
Look at the Cross where He hung transfixed
as a revelation of how far divine love will go,
and gaze into the empty tomb radiating the fullness
of divine love’s victory over all things.
If He has accomplished such great acts,
how much must He care for and love you?

O my soul,
know the love and care of God.