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.
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
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.
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.
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
I am the great sun, but you do not see me, I am your husband, but you turn away. I am the captive, but you do not free me, I am the captain but you will not obey. I am the truth, but you will not believe me, I am the city where you will not stay. I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me, I am that God to whom you will not pray. I am your counsel, but you will not hear me, I am your lover whom you will betray. I am the victor, but you do not cheer me, I am the holy dove whom you will slay. I am your life, but if you will not name me, Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.
Charles Causley (24 August 1917 – 4 November 2003) was a Cornish poet, schoolmaster and writer. His work is noted for its simplicity and directness and for its associations with folklore, especially when linked to his native Cornwall.
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.
As a Christian, my understanding is that the timeless truths of the Bible are greater than the cultural and historical contexts in which the actual words were written. God expects every generation to discover and apply these truths in their unique time and place. This is not to dilute our faith or disregard tradition, but simply to let these truths live and shine afresh in every age.
Equally, we mustn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because something was true in a previous era and context, doesn’t mean it should be modified or abandoned now. Christian tradition has much to teach us, despite the fact that the church hasn’t always been the perfect guiding light to timeless truths. Humility must be shown, and (if necessary) repentance demonstrated.
This is the overall context for the often highly charged discussion of equal marriage and inclusion within Christian circles.
Today (1 July 2021) marks one since since my retirement, although we didn’t move to our new home until a week later because of all the difficulties related to the first coronavirus lockdown. It was something of a nightmare that’s best forgotten.
Where has the time gone? How did I ever find time to work?
I’ve already written about how my retirement was never going to normal with three young children, but even so it hasn’t quite been the year I expected. Coronavirus has messed up everyone’s plans.
Overall, it’s been a good year, even if we’re settling into a new routine later and slower than we’d hoped. We’ve not been to an ‘in person’ Sunday worship meeting at a local Salvation Army yet, but having worked some Saturdays and all Sundays for many years, I have to admit I’m enjoying my weekends at home. Weekday mornings are all about getting Freddy and Matilda to school, so our weekends are precious family time. But I’m sure there are many Salvationists and church-goers who are reassessing their lives as the restrictions are relaxed.
Having said that, there are many positives. We’re very happy in our new home, even if there are still jobs to do, but isn’t that always the way? Pollyanna now regularly attends Parent and Toddler groups prior to starting nursery in September. Contact with family and friends is easier and more frequent now. Naomi is able to get out more and build links in the village. I’ve started running and language learning again. Both of us have taken up (or restarted) hobbies, and I’m hoping to be appointed as a parent governor at the children’s school as a way of serving our community.
I’ve also settled into posting something on my blog every day, with a weekly Sunday devotional.
So, here’s to another year to enrich our family life together, build links within our community, taking opportunities to reach out to others in Christian ministry.
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?