Kendrick - Beauty for Brokenness

This week the Different Voices blog hears from the outgoing Moderator the Very Rev John Chalmers as he talks about the inspiration he has taken from Graham Kendrick’s hymn ‘Beauty for brokenness’.

The Hymns we choose often tell more about our theological position and outlook than sometimes we would care to reveal! That’s why I like to include hymns from a great range of hymn writers – it keeps people guessing! I don’t like being pigeon-holed; if you believe, as I do, in a broad church then you need to be broad in your choice of hymns. Often our prejudices start when we stop singing words that don’t fit the lens that we use to understand scripture. The best hymns, however, transcend the theological divide and Graham Kendrick’s hymn Beauty for brokenness does just that.

During this Moderatorial year I have carried with me the message that wherever we serve in church or community our business is to look for the beauty in the brokenness of people’s lives or the beauty in the brokenness of the communities we serve.

I believe that, made in the image of God, there is beauty in every life, but sometimes it is just obscured, repressed or buried in the circumstances of poverty or poverty of opportunity. Wherever I have travelled I have given to people the gift of little glass doves which are made in Bethlehem by Palestinian Christians who belong to the Al-Kahf craft community. They are made from fragments of glass that they recover from bomb sites. As well as being, in themselves, a symbol of hope these glass doves are a tangible example of beauty arising out of the ashes of destruction. These Palestinian Christians, living under partition in modern day Bethlehem, are amongst the poorest and most oppressed people in the world today – yet they work to make beauty out of brokenness. So when I sing Graham Kendrick’s great hymn I have the people of the Al-Kahf community firmly in my mind:

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering,
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your Kingdom increase.

Each verse transports me to yet another place where the love and grace of God are in desperately short supply. Verse two urges us to be the voice that pleads the cause of those who can’t speak and, to be honest; we would be a better church if we made that the spiritual necessity of our day rather than engaging in futile disputes about the minutia of dogma.

Verse four opens the way for us to pray for peace across the earth and those little doves from Bethlehem come into their own again. The dove is the universal symbol of peace and we need to include in our prayers the desire for peace with justice in the Holy Land of Christ’s birth as well as in every war torn place on earth.

Verse five takes us to the most pressing issue of our time – the ravaged earth. If we don’t tackle the question of our stewardship of mother earth and we let climate change overtake us, then self-will and short-sightedness will have completely replaced our responsibility to one another and to the God who gave us this life. The hymn ends with the prayer:

Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again

I say AMEN to all of this.