Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Morning, Evening, and Commending

It's no accident that people have viewed sleep as a picture of death. At first glance, the sleeper looks dead, and the use of "sleeping" as a euphemism for death is common, so common that even the disciples were confused when Jesus spoke of Lazarus so in John 11.11-13.

Sleep does picture death, and each day is bracketed by sleep.

It's no surprise, then, that what we usually think of as a morning hymn would have within it a precursor of sleep (a usually evening activity) and death. What I've got in mind is "With the Lord Begin Your Task" (LSB 869, LW 483, and TLH 540). The first verse:

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

What's beautiful here is that even as we begin our day's activities, we look to the end, both of the day and of time, the closing of our eyes, both in sleep, and in death.

Such commending is a good way to end our day. I don't suggest heavy duty praying while trying to go to sleep, unless there's good reason for it: sleep is resting, and heavy duty praying is hard work. But "commending" -- leaving those we love into God's care -- is a good thing, and allows us to drift off into the rest that God provides (Psalm 127.2). Such commending doesn't need to be long petitions, just perhaps asking God's mercy on those whom we love and asking God to provide them rest and peace while they sleep. (Luther's evening prayer contains similar wording: "Into Your hands I commend myself, my body, and soul, and all things. Let Your Holy Angel be with me, that the wicked foe have no power over me.")

I also find it helpful to commend enemies at such a time. I don't mean national enemies, though any such would certainly be included. I mean personal enemies, whom God brings into your life to give you a chance to love them, even when they might hate you, and when you might have reasons for hating them. Instead, name them, asking that God would have pity on them, grant them peace, and forgive their sins, as we plea for God's forgiveness for our own sins.

No comments: