Elusive Peace?

Sometimes peace in our human hearts can seem elusive. We can so easily be knocked off balance, experiencing discouragement and distress in our inner being.

The psalmist expresses this in Psalms 42 and 43. These are two psalms which in many Hebrew manuscripts form one psalm, and when you read them together you can see why. Separated by number, but not by obvious thematic connection and narrative flow.

You can read them by clicking on the links here: Psalm 42 & Psalm 43

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Augustine

Although inner peace and quietness characterise the Christian life, many things can knock us off balance. These times should be expected, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when they come.

Peace in the Bible refers to the complete wholeness and wellbeing of body, mind, and soul. It’s about security, lack of conflict, and being in harmony with God, ourselves, and others.

If you’re feeling out of balance right now, the words of the Psalmist and the poet may help:

Peace of the tranquil heart,
Fall upon me;
Gift of the Father
My sentinel be:
Guard Thou my heart
In the presence of ill,
Hold me – encompass me –
I would be still.

See: Be still, and know (Will J Brand)

Psalm 23 (A Psalm of David)

clouds daylight forest grass

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23 from the King James Version (1611) of the Bible. For a more modern and accurate translation from the New International Version (1978) click here. See also: 10/05/20 Sunday Reflections.

Sea Sunday (2021)

Every year churches around the world celebrate Sea Sunday on the second Sunday in July. It’s a day for people to come together to pray for seafarers and fishers, and thank them for the vital role they play in all of our lives. Here’s a Bible reading (click on the link), a hymn, and a prayer for you to use.

Psalm 65 (NIVUK)

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Saviour, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amid its rage didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go:
And ever let there rise to thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Almighty God, we remember those whose lives are lived on your great oceans. For those who go down to the sea in ships, we give thanks; they enrich our lives at great personal cost. May they daily feel the strength of your protection, the warmth of your presence and the love of your relationship as they seek hope of safe passage. Pray for seafarers who are stranded at sea and forced to survive using only the resources available around them. Comfort them in times of loneliness and need and remind them that, in you, they are never alone, particularly when they are struggling with poor weather conditions or sickness. Amen. Source

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Psalm 139 is a wonderful description of God’s spiritual care and protection, combined with a personal desire to live a life in keeping with God’s character. God surrounds us and hems us in, but not in a bad way. His light is so bright that ‘even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day’. The psalmist recognizes that he can’t escape from the Lord. His anxiety dissolves when he considers God’s loving care for him, even before his birth.

Towards the end, the psalmist criticises and wishes dead those who disobey God, probably because he is so committed to living his own virtuous life. This needs to be viewed in the light of the New Testament, and the love shown by Jesus to all people, even his enemies. The psalm is actually a strong affirmation of the value God places on humankind in all its variety.

The psalmist opens up every aspect of his being, character, behaviour, and speech to God’s examination. As hard as his life is, he wants to ensure his own spiritual growth so that he doesn’t come under God’s judgment.

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand –
when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Celtic Night Prayer (Compline)

Compline is a beautiful Christian worship service, the perfect way to end the day collectively or individually.

I’ve posted before about the Northumbria Community, a dispersed, worldwide, network Christian Community, committed to a new way for living. Source

Over the years, I’ve found their Daily Prayer books and website helpful, especially in troubled times when they provide much needed grounding and routine.

The Daily Office – Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer – is at the core of the life of the Northumbria Community. A regular cycle of daily prayers constitutes the essential rhythm of life around which other activities can take their proper place. Source

In this simple Sunday devotional I would like to point you to their Complines which can be used by individuals or groups. There’s a different one for each day of the week. Why not take some time to thoughtfully pray this today and in the coming days?

Celtic Evening Prayer

I’ve posted before about the Northumbria Community, a dispersed, worldwide, network Christian Community, committed to a new way for living. Source

Over the years, I’ve found their Daily Prayer books and website helpful, especially in troubled times when they provide much needed grounding and routine.

The Daily Office – Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer – is at the core of the life of the Northumbria Community. A regular cycle of daily prayers constitutes the essential rhythm of life around which other activities can take their proper place. Source

In this simple Sunday devotional I would like to point you to their Evening Prayer, which can be used by individuals or groups.

Why not take some time to thoughtfully pray this today and in the coming days?

Celtic Midday Prayer

I’ve posted before about the Northumbria Community, a dispersed, worldwide, network Christian Community, committed to a new way for living. Source

Over the years, I’ve found their Daily Prayer books and website helpful, especially in troubled times when they provide much needed grounding and routine.

The Daily Office – Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer – is at the core of the life of the Northumbria Community. A regular cycle of daily prayers constitutes the essential rhythm of life around which other activities can take their proper place. Source

In this simple weekday devotional I would like to point you to their Midday Prayer, which can be used by individuals or groups.

Why not take some time to thoughtfully pray this today and in the coming days?

Only Seeds

A rather late in the day (I nearly didn’t make it) Sunday devotional based on a Lectionary reading for today – Mark 4:26-34 (click to read).

A new shop opened up in the village. A woman went in and found God behind the counter.

‘What are you selling here?’

‘Everything you could possibly wish for.’

‘Oh good. I’ll have happiness, wisdom, love, freedom from fear, and peace, please. Oh, and for everyone.’

‘Sorry, you got it wrong. I’m not selling any fruits. Only seeds.’

Anon.

A Good Samaritan?

The truth about the Good Samaritan (a parable told by Jesus recorded in Luke 10:25-37) is that the Samaritans were hated by the Jews at the time.

So in a lovely twist, Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story to show the religious leaders that he just did naturally what they found excuses not to do. Hate is a dangerous thing.

We help people because it’s basic to our humanity, it’s the right thing to do. This we can agree with humanists, agnostics and atheists. Indeed, they often say their motives are purer than ours.

As Christians, we also help people because God demonstrated his love for humanity through Jesus. Jesus cared for people, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – in other words, Christians need to be like Jesus, simple.

Who are those who are ‘hated’ today? Who are those who are looked down on and despised? Who are the marginalised people? What do we think about immigrants? Who are excluded by the church? What is our attitude to LGBTQ+ people? How do we treat those who are not ‘like’ us?

God’s love is for all, it’s boundless. Human love should reach across our self-imposed discrimination and prejudice. How will this affect the way you respond to others this week?