wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near and the world is about to turn

what is there to say today that hasn’t already been said?

i was, for the record, not in grant park. i wanted to be, but was wait listed. instead, i watched the election returns with friends and sent text messages back and forth between friends and family. i spent the evening with 9 voters and one little girl, who will turn one year old in 18 days, sitting around the room, eating chili, drinking margaritas and watching the world change before our eyes. we couldn’t hear the commentators over sadie’s cooing and giggling. as i watched this new life negotiate steps and yoga poses (girl’s got downward facing dog down to a t!), i was amazed at how quickly and how slowly the world moves.

i grew up in georgia, to progressive parents living in the heart of the bible belt. and about once a month, my grandmother would take me as her co-pilot to madison georgia to visit her aunt,my great, great aunt ollie. one day, grandma pulled the car over, off the road and we got out and stepped onto a field of cotton. my grandmother let me touch the white,non-processed, still growing plant and cut a few stems for me to take home. “this is what they grew on the callaway plantation” she told me. the callaway plantation, which her grandparents had lived and worked and owned. later, as an adult, i would visit the plantation of my heritage and touch the cotton that still grows there for display and wonder what it means to be descended from a slave owner.

so sitting with sadie and her cooing and her yoga poses, thinking of my grandmother, who’s dementia is so far progressed that she struggles to remember her name, feeling the memory of cotton running through my fingertips, etched in the bloodlines that made me who i am, i was, i am without words. the shortness of life, the amount that can change within a life span–the beauty and the mystery of that are overwhelming. and so i sat and watched as this country, which only 175 years ago allowed one human being to own another, which only 88 years ago gave women the right to vote, which 40 years ago was still in the midst of a movement over ones civil rights based on the colour of your skin–this country made a profound and transformative decision.

he is not the messiah. let us make no mistake on that. and the world still holds hatred and discrimination. but something happened yesterday. something profound shifted. and so the world begins to turn.

if you don’t know this hymn (for you good episcopalians, the tune is kingsfold, which we use to sing #480–when jesus left his father’s throne, where you get that great line: should we forget our saviour’s praise, the stones themselves would sing), it’s worth a read:

My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on the servant’s plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest. Could the world be about to turn?

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.

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me.
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn.
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.


From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
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.


Though the nations rage from age to age, we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound,
‘Til the spear and rod can 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.

“Canticle of the Turning” — Lyrics by Rory Cooney (based on the Magnificat, Luke 1:39-56), Music: Kingsfold, English melody; adapt. & harm. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

5 thoughts on “wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near and the world is about to turn

  1. yep…that may well be the original tune. i just learned it for an event a group i’m part of sponsored, called the justice revival. it was a great ending hymn…lots of foot stomping!!


  2. Beautiful thoughts, Sarah, and a lovely hymn. Our church service on Sunday after the election was quite the musical celebration, as well! You know you’re a Unitarian when Woody Guthrie songs count as hymns in your church… LOL


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