God the Sculptor of the Mountains

by John Briggs on June 11, 2014
“God the sculptor of the mountains”
God the sculptor of the mountains,
God the miller of the sand,
God the jeweler of the heavens,
God the potter of the land:
you are womb of all creation,
we are formless; shape us now.
God the nuisance to the Pharaoh,
God the cleaver of the sea,
God the pillar of the darkness,
God the beacon of the free:
you are gate of all deliv’rance,
we are sightless; lead us now.
God the unexpected infant,
God the calm, determined youth,
God the table turning prophet,
God the resurrected Truth:
you are present every moment,
we are searching; meet us now.
God the dresser of the vineyard,
God the planter of the wheat,
God the reaper of the harvest,
God the source of all we eat:
you are host at every table,
we are hungry; feed us now.
The Rev. John Thornburg, Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church, Dallas, was commissioned in 1994 by the Perkins Alumni Council to write this text in honor of James Kirby’s thirteen-year tenure as Dean of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.  The most immediate attraction is the text’s powerful imagery, and no small part of that power is Thornburg’s juxtaposition of the obvious
               sculptor of the mountain,
                jeweler of the heavens,
                cleaver of the sea,
to the unexpected
                miller of the sand,
                nuisance of the Pharaoh,
                table turning prophet.
Moreover, the piling up of these obvious/unexpected images in each stanza leads the poet to a statement about the Divine nature which then allows him to express our relationship to that nature:
                You are womb…we are formless,
                You are gate…we are sightless,
                You are host…we are hungry,
                You are present…we are searching.
This confession of “a true faith,” for which we pray in the Collect of Trinity Sunday, is an important clue that this text which, at first glance, appears to be about God the Father is, in fact, a strong hymn about all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  The “one and equal glory” of those three Persons which we celebrate in the Proper Preface of Trinity Sunday is modeled by stanza three’s seamless introduction of the Son (“God the unexpected infant”) and Holy Spirit (“You are present every moment”), while stanza four sings of our life in the present world, as well as of the end of time (“God the reaper of the harvest”).
This Sunday we will sing this text set to the tune Sandria by Gerre Hancock, who was for many years the organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, and one of the finest composers of church music of the 20th Century.
Notes taken from “Wonder, Love and and Praise, Leader’s Guide”, Copyright 1997 by The Church Pension Fund