Searching Of The HEart

(this is a little Lenten series for those who are interested... #5)


Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.

These last verses of Psalm 139 are almost the ultimate Lenten words. This is a spiritual season where leading up to Christ’s cross and resurrection we search our souls. The Psalmist asks God to do the searching.

It was rather easy for me to think of these verses when I first heard Leonard Cohen’s song Villanelle For Our Time. The words  are actually from a poem by F.R. Scott a Canadian poet, intellectual and constitutional expert:

“From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.”

While Scott was at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar he became influenced by the R.H. Tawney a Christian Socialist. That makes a lot of sense as we look at these lyrics. There is a deep sense of personal spirituality and social transformation and where those two things connect. 

Cohen or Scott, or both actually, are saying that the social coming together of people will find its spark in the personal searching of the heart. 

That in itself comes from a personal faith that finds its way into the world in humanity finding their vocational places. We play our part, as one of my many mantras goes, when “our deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need” (Frederick Buechner). Our work coming out of faith is what will bring Commonwealth or God’s Kingdom or however you want to describe a new world order.

“Social holiness” is a new Wesleyan phrase that I learned recently that rather caught my attention. In evangelical Christianity we have been rather over focused on personal piety and have neglected our social holiness. 

Indeed, John Stott said that our neglect of social justice issues was the great evangelical heresy of the Twentieth Century. So, Cohen and Scott’s poetry is an inspiration to live holy lives in both spheres. Indeed, they go together and should not be separated.

Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.


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