In Praise of Clarity, Ears, and Voice

posted on February 12

In Praise of Clarity, Ears, and Voice
A Reflection on the Hymn “Open My Eyes that I May See”

Two years before her 1897 death in a horse-drawn buggy accident, Clara H. Scott penned these words:

Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.
Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything else will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!
Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

This hymn resides, among other places, in our own United Methodist Hymnal. It is #454, under “Sanctifying and Perfecting Grace.” Its closest neighbors are “More Love to Thee, O Christ” and “Not So in Haste, My Heart.” In this section you will also find “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” and “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” The theme of this section is how we live out our faith in real life, and especially how we live as we wait for God to reveal the future. Our hymnal, and our faith, are resplendent with themes of waiting, hoping, and trusting God for the right outcomes. There are no hymns that espouse haste, only patience.

I am in a unique position of watching Methodists seek clarity, listen to each other, and witness by their spirits to the generations behind them. Because most of the Methodists I work with are American, they are struggling. Ours is a politically divided nation, and opinions and inaccuracies are often ground up, reprocessed, and thinly disguised as news. Patience is thin; listening is less prized than ever; the binary impulse of “you’re wrong” and “I’m right” ignites and often ends conversations; forgiveness is in short supply. Some would rather end relationships than perform the work of reconciliation. To all of this, I try to bring the gifts of accurate information and most of all, the peace of the Risen Christ. As I minister, I ask for the same things Clara did in her great hymn – eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mouth to bear warm truth. There is much to learn from Clara.

I want to express a word of gratitude for all the churches and pastors who have experienced comprehensive consultations with me during this season. In you I have seen patience and perspective. It has been a joy to share with you accurate information about the continuing United Methodist Church. Watching you thrive in these conversations, and hearing you speak from a place of spiritual maturity has been a deep gift for me. I value your honesty, and I thank you for valuing mine. God is moving among the churches of the Northern Piedmont District.

As we prepare (without anxiety) for the strong ministry of the continuing United Methodist Church, we wait together for a decision about holding General Conference. It is scheduled for August 29-September 6 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We should hear something by the end of March. As you know, we are a worldwide denomination, with elected delegates in every time zone across the globe. We wait with hope, but we are adult enough to realize that there is a real struggle with visas and vaccines.

This reminds us that so much of our life and witness occur “in the meantime.” I want you to know that I have seen great faithfulness in you “in the meantime.” You have worried less and less, and you have emphasized the mission more and more. That is the key to vitality.  

I have rejoiced at seeing churches move from “we need to make a political statement” to “we need to make the best missional decision so our church can grow.” That is healthy spirituality. I thank you for the privilege of witnessing to you and the witness you have borne to me. I thank our laity for their common sense, and I thank the clergy for their deep compassion about their life’s work. I value the transparency and truth.

Please pray for our WNCC Cabinet as we meet this week to begin the process of making appointments for 2022-23. Some of our dearest colleagues are entering much-deserved retirement, and we will miss their faithfulness and their zeal for the mission of Christ Jesus that they offered to our Conference for decades. On the other hand, gifted seminarians are graduating, and they will bring tremendous much-needed skills to the United Methodist Church of the future. It has thrilled me to hear you ask for their youthful leadership!  They are bright, and they will fill our sanctuaries and parsonages with spirit and truth and abundant joy and faithfulness. In between our graduates and retirees are numerous faithful clergy who are entrusting their futures to a God and a Cabinet who loves them deeply and values their gifts tremendously. It is holy work, and I thank you for all the support you give me every day as I labor on your behalf, for the advancement of the Gospel, in the Northern Piedmont District. I’m so excited about this week! Please pray for me as a I travel and represent you and your dear churches.
Rev. Bev Coppley
District Superintendent

In Praise of Clarity Ears and Voice