By: Bekka Meyer
Readings: Isaiah 30:19-26; Acts 13:16-25; Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19
I love the hymn “Canticle of the Turning” (ELW 723) enough that it was sung by the congregation at our wedding. I love its message of justice and the tenacity you can feel in the melody – it’s a call to action when singing it. I’d always pegged it as a hymn focused primarily on justice (it is indeed categorized under “Justice, Peace” in the ELW), and we included it in our wedding to acknowledge that what we were doing – entering into a marriage recognized by the government – was not universally available to all, but that “the world is about to turn” and grow in recognition that love is love is love is love.
A few years after our wedding, a dear friend (who’s a pastor in another denomination) commented how she loved “Canticle of the Turning” as an Advent hymn, and that she’d been introduced to it at our wedding. I was initially surprised to think of it as an Advent hymn, but took another look and found that the text is based on the Magnificat. What a wonderful way to re-experience this hymn, to place it in this church season. I read and sang through it again with a focus on the season of waiting that is Advent, and again this year through the lens of “longing,” our Luther Place Advent theme.
The Psalm aligned with today’s readings was written about the coronation of a king, but it parallels “Canticle of the Turning.” From Psalm 72:4: “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” From the hymn: “The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn; There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.” The Psalm petitions the ruler to bring justice to the poor; the hymn looks ahead to this new state of affairs, this turning, where oppressors are brought down, and the poor weep no more and are fed.
Our congregation’s theme of longing applies to so many things that weigh on us in our current world, injustices that persist day after day while we continue to pray that they improve, to long for change. When that weight is overwhelming, the hymn’s lyrics inspire me to remember “the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait,” and that oppression and injustices will be “crushed by God, who is turning the world around.”
My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn!