Notes from my Knapsack 9-18-14
Granville's Highest Inscription
"In His Temple Doth Every One Speak Of His Glory"
Far above the main doors of Swasey Chapel, itself high atop College Hill overlooking Granville, those words are carved in stone where only the attentive might see them.
I've been up there for programs about to begin inside, or outside waiting on the end of the annual Good Friday Cross Walk, and pointed the panel out to long time residents. They invariably say something along the lines of "I didn't know that was up there."
It sounds Biblical, and you'd be right about that. There's a Psalm-like quality to it, too: bingo.
The words are the second half of the verse found at Psalm 29:9, in the King James Version of the Bible.
The passage in the context of the psalm as a whole is interesting for two reasons: one is that this psalm is the one specified for the congregation to chant or sing together in the synagogue as the Torah scroll is carried back to the ark, or cabinet in which it is kept, on the Sabbath. A lullaby, if you will, for the scrolls of God's Word carried like a child cradled in loving arms back to a place of rest.
The other is easy for Jew, Christian, or non-believer to see in reading the psalm as a whole. While this half-verse talks about the temple, the building where worship takes place, and so seems quite right for inscription on a college chapel, the rest of the psalm talks about nature and the wilderness and creatures real or even mythical, evocations of storms and earthquakes all of which stir up awe and amazement for we humans . . . but it begins in "the beauty of holiness" and ends with "the Lord will bless his people with peace."
When this text was chosen in 1924 to decorate the façade of Swasey Chapel, I like to think the decision included awareness of the Hebraic significance of Psalm 29. As the Torah Scroll was carried into the safekeeping of the synagogue ark, so the students might have been envisioned filing into the chapel pews beneath these words, where within they could worship for the safekeeping of their spirits.
More likely, as students and staff and faculty left the chapel, with the commanding view out across the valley of Raccoon Creek to Flower Pot Hill and Spring Valley beyond, they would be given a hint of the glory of creation; some days seeing storms sweeping down the valley from the west, other times exiting into a landscape transformed by a light dusting of snow, and today at least, you're likely to see one of those leaping, unpredictable creatures of the wilderness wandering across the bricks of Chapel Walk.
In God's temple we do, of course, speak of divine glories; the psalm and the chapel are well-situated to remind us that this glory is not just a matter of words and sermons and Sundays, but can be seen all around us. And that learning to see God's glory all around can be a path to peace.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you've found unexpected inspiration at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.