Today I awake and God is before me
Tune: SLITHERS OF GOLD
Words and Music John L. Bell (1949 - ) and Graham Maule (1958-2019)
© 1989 Wild Goose Resource Group, c/o Iona Community, 21 Carlton Court, Glasgow, G5 9JP, www.wildgoose.scot.
 As published in Love from Below: (Wild Goose Songs 3) (Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications / The Iona Community, 1989), no. 12, and Ancient and Modern; Hymns and Songs for Refreshing Worship (2013), no. 8.
Today I awake and God is before me,
at night, as I dreamt, he summoned the day
for God never sleeps, but patterns the morning
with slithers of gold or glory in grey.
Today I arise and Christ is beside me.
He walked through the dark to scatter new light.
Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people
to hope and to heal, resist and invite.
Today I affirm the Spirit within me
at worship and work, in struggle and rest.
The Spirit inspires all life which is changing
from fearing to faith, from broken to blessed.
Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,
above and beneath, before and behind;
the Maker, the Son, the Spirit together –
they called me to life and call me their friend.
Reflection: Chris Moorsom
I first sang this song in Iona Abbey, where it was included as the Hymn for the Tuesday Morning worship. This was where my wife Liz & I met as volunteers, helping out in the Summer holidays in 1980 (she the assistant cook, me van driver & Abbey musician). It has journeyed with us ever since.
‘Today I awake …’
In May 1993, on the final day of a Sabbatical which had become a pilgrimage for me and my family, I awoke to witness the sunrise from my single person tent, moved to sing this song of faith, as the sunlight cast ‘slithers of gold’ across the field into my tent. We’d travelled to Iona and back, marking 10 years of my priestly ministry, and taking time to visit some key places and people en route. This included Coventry, Iona, Glasgow (with John Bell and company), Whitby, and finally a personal journey by bicycle, culminating in the above farmer’s field in Winsley near Bath.
In Genesis 28, Jacob too was travelling, and spent the night in a lonely place with a stone for a pillow, dreaming of a ladder reaching to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it. The LORD affirmed his calling: ‘know I am with you and will keep you where-ever you go …’. On waking, Jacob says, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’.
‘At night, as I dreamt, he summoned the day; …’
A pilgrimage is all the better for stripping things down to the essentials, allowing more openness to the realities around us and within us, recognising God’s presence and his messengers in nature and neighbour.
‘Today I arise …’
In my family pilgrimage, we linked in with a number of faith communities. In Coventry, we enjoyed the rich fare of a Cathedral Holy Week, but also the Hindu street celebrations nearby. My family particularly enjoyed walking through dark streets to the Cathedral dawn service to greet Easter day. The Cathedral’s buildings themselves witnessed to the Easter faith, the new Cathedral rising out of the ruins of the old. We found ourselves caught up in this story where Christ ‘beckons his people to hope and to heal, resist and invite’.
‘Today I affirm the Spirit within me …’
So many stories of a calling to faith occur on as God’s people travel, or take refreshment and rest on the way. The disciples, on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35), found their fearful feelings, resulting from the horrors of Jesus’ crucifixion, transformed into the hope of the resurrection life. Then the offering of hospitality to the traveller brought unexpected blessings, and ‘they recognised him’, their Lord, in the breaking of the bread.
At Iona Abbey, the practice of providing hospitality to strangers was foundational, summed up in the Rune of Hospitality read at the Welcome Service, reminding us how our homes can become places of blessing to others too. By building relationships through such simple acts of care, the kingdom comes close, and opens up the possibility of healing divisions and historic hurts.
‘The Spirit inspires all life which is changing, from fearing to faith, from broken to blessed.’
‘Today I enjoy the Trinity round me, ….’
This song is imbued with a Celtic spirituality which is holistic and down to earth. On pilgrimage, we explored this further, adapting or writing songs to be sung by all ages together or alone, in the shower, in bed, travelling, sharing a meal, these becoming a daily ingredient to nourish the spirit. Having a few such songs at our memories’ fingertips (hymn books not advised in showers!) enables us acknowledge and sense God the Trinity encompassing us, both in the humdrum things of life, and at points of change and crisis.
As we look to a future which remains uncertain and probably rather different from our past, let’s cherish well written hymns like these, songs of faith in God, who inspires and sustains us as we journey on in Christ’s company.
Bless to me O God, my soul and my body,
and bless to me, O God, my belief and my condition.
Bless to me, O God, my heart and my speech,
and bless to me, O God, the handling of my hand.
 See The Iona Community Worship Book; revised edition (Wild Goose, 1991).
 Note: there were also morning awakenings on this journey where ‘glory in grey’ was a more appropriate description!
 Quite a tortuous journey! Read the full story of Jacob and his wives & sons, including Rachel’s son, Joseph, in Genesis Chapters 29–50.
 Hit by bombs in a World War 2 air-raid.
 ‘We saw a stranger yesterday. We put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and, with the sacred name of the triune God, he blessed us and our house, our cattle and our dear ones.’ (Iona Community Worship book).
 This is a traditional Celtic morning prayer from Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica (Lindisfarne Press, 1992). A copy of my simple setting of this can be downloaded here and an audio recording of it here.