September Siren

The poet W.H. Auden wrote with deep poignancy as peace gave way to war, effective September 1, 1939:  “I sit in one of the dives/ On Fifty-second Street/ Uncertain and afraid/As the clever hopes expire/Of a low dishonest decade:/Waves of anger and fear/Circulate over the bright/And darkened lands of the earth,/Obsessing our private lives;/The unmentionable odour of death/Offends the September night.”


I sit in within the rather more palatable environs of my 3rd floor study, a personal enclave comfortably adorned with many of my books, some lovely prints and pictures, classical and jazz music readily at my disposal, air-conditioning permeating the room, and any number of three cats keeping me company -  Still …


Still do I recognize – nay; feel, and deeply at that – the uncertainty and fear that has been building for far more than a mere decade, but each year comparably low and dishonest, notwithstanding the clever hopes of a seemingly bright, up-and-coming generation.  One can feel the anxiety that hangs in the air everywhere one goes.   Fear finds its expression in the workplace, on the news, and as one looks ahead.  Anger has broken out across our once great land, parading itself across the television, as we witness riots in our city streets, riots on our college campuses, riots even breaking out in picturesque parks wherein children should be playing and birds should be chirping.


 It comes from the extreme Left.  It comes from the extreme Right.  I fear that it comes from deep within the human heart.  It carries an awful stench, replete with a terrible abdominal pit – It is the “unmentionable odour of death,” irrespective of the month, as it is always with us, way down deep within each one of us, for it does appear to be who we are, no matter where we are or when we are or who we think we are.


I look back, not to September 1, 1939 (for I wasn’t born for another 22 years), but to an earlier day in my life when I would walk everywhere, and for miles, thinking and taking it all in as I strolled, placidly or frenetically, dependent upon my mood.  I can’t walk like that anymore, not with my existent heart condition.  I have an enlarged heart and an irregular heartbeat, and I have looked five heart attacks in the eye over the last two years.  The doctors have only two further courses of treatment:  A clinically-controlled and induced heart attack and a heart transplant – I am by no means near needing the latter, and now the former has been ruled out.


But this I know:   I have been given a new heart by God, a heart that He promised a very long time ago:  “I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36.24-28).


I thank God for modern cardiology and its magnificent advances; I have been its and their beneficiary.  I am exceedingly thankful for my cardiologist; an excellent man and doctor, if ever there were one.  But no member of the profession, however esteemed or capable, can rival the Great Cardiologist.  His name is Jesus, and He will draw you to Himself, cleanse you of your sin, show you a better course of existence, and enable you to honor Him by honoring you with the gift of His Spirit – I readily attest:  He’s better than a stent, more helpful than a pacemaker, and He doesn’t require needles in order to infuse our lives with His redemptive and therapeutic Presence.


He is what our beleaguered land (and world) needs at this desperate hour.  Fellow Christians:  Beseech the throne of God’s matchless grace in prayer.  Churches of America:  Humble yourselves, repent of your sin, seek God and pray.  And to my fellow Americans:  Our nation is in great peril, standing on an historical precipice, but God still beckons you to come to Him, to come back to Him – biblically; to return to our senses.  Tearing down statuary, gunning down policemen, running cars into crowds and destroying property does nothing to mend the wound.  Turning away from Him and repudiating His law is the last thing on earth that will be of any avail.  But God wishes to redeem us.  He desires to refresh us.  He wants nothing more than to give us new life. 


The Romantic poet William Wordsworth quipped, “The world is too much us.”  It assuredly is in this day of cable news and rapid transport.  But our God is greater than anything in this world, and He wishes always to be with us.  May you return to Him and know His love.  “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29.11).  May you encounter, in this month of September, the magnificent fragrance of life!


Pastor Bradley E. Lacey

First Baptist Church at Conshohocken

September 2017