Abrahaml staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.2 The children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.3
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.4 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.5 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.6
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.7
One of the glories of the Anglican tradition is its Book of Common Prayer, which provides written prayers for Sunday liturgies, weekday devotions, and many other occasions. Some Christian traditions rely more on spontaneous prayers. Both written prayers and spontaneous prayers are valuable. The Book of Revelation shows, through images and metaphors, that in heaven we will praise God in words that are both spontaneous and shared. For example:
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory. (Revelation 19:6-7)
One advantage of written prayers is that they reflect the judgment of generations of Christians. A spontaneous plea may seek forgiveness for a particular bad deed, but the written confession reminds us that we can sin in “thought, word, and deed.” Written prayers also provide the comfort of familiarity and the knowledge that we are joining with millions of others around the world in the same prayers of petition, thanksgiving, liturgy, and praise; in short, in “common prayer.” We must of course guard against having the recitation of written prayers become stale. Our challenge is to see it as a window to God constructed by many who have gone before us and maintained in good order by our active worship.
One example comes to us from what is known as “The Great Litany”. It is used as both worship and corporate prayer. Centuries old, it first appeared in Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s “Exhortation & Litany” 1544. It was included in subsequent Books of Common prayer, most notably the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer. We see it here in the Anglican Church of North America prayer book and we pray:
From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us.
Good Lord, deliver us. (BCP 2019 ACNA)
Originally written at a time when England was engaged in a war on two fronts as well as facing the ordinary threats of the day. These prayers are indispensable when words fail us. They assure us that God is still there in spite of civil unrest, a world wide pandemic or the uncertainties of everyday life.
The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, describes how the heroes of the Old Testament trusted in God, despite adversity, and relied on God’s promise of a better future. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” The author continues in Chapter 12, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
By calling them “witnesses,” the author means that the people of old demonstrated their faith by their words and actions (as in the phrase, “Can I have a witness?”). The promise of a better future has come true in Jesus, who initiated a new relationship with God in which sin, evil, and death have been defeated. Jesus had to suffer for this to happen, but he saw “joy” ahead. We cannot do better than to imitate Jesus. We will not escape trouble, but we can run the race marked out for us cheered by the example of the holy people of God and of Jesus himself.
Soon we will be able to welcome people inside our church building. The first thing you will see when you enter is a glass screen etched with pictures representing the “great cloud of witnesses” who trusted in God’s promise. It is a good reminder for us to do the same. For the remainder of Sunday’s in August, we are open to receive you in a drive through Eucharist. Join us anytime from 10:00 am until Noon. We look forward to meeting you!
The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name.1
If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.2 If ye … being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?3 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.4 Ye have not, because ye ask not.5
When … the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.6
They rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them.7
The Bible contains a whole library of books written over hundreds of years by many people for many purposes. Together these books form a record of God’s relationship with man and man’s reflections on that relationship. Translations of the Bible were hugely influential in the development of modern languages, including English. The Bible was for a long time the primary text for persons learning to read and an important inspiration for literature. Readers of Chaucer, Milton, Dickens, Stevenson, Hawthorne, and Melville know how deeply those writers were steeped in the Bible. Even today, many common names have a Biblical origin.
It is an understatement to say that the Bible has fallen out of fashion. That is unfortunate. The Bible contains great wisdom and great comfort for people in dangerous times.
One of the glories of the Anglican tradition is its insistence on reading the whole Bible. When the first English Bibles were printed, crowds gathered to hear them read aloud. Anglican Sunday services include multiple Bible readings (usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, and one from the New Testament). At St. Barnabas, the readings are printed in the bulletin that you will be given if you attend our drive-through Eucharist on Sundays (anytime between 10 and noon). In addition, we can provide resources to guide you through daily readings that will cover the whole Bible in a year.
We encourage you to read the Bible for its cultural importance, for its wisdom and comfort, and most of all for its record about Jesus, the Son of God, who lived, died, and rose again to save us from sin, evil, and death.
Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ1
I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and a commander to the people.2 It became him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.3 We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.4
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God.5 We do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.)6
The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.7
“Lord of all hopefulness” follows the singer’s moods through the day from hopefulness and joy in the morning to eagerness and faith at noon, kindliness and grace in the evening, and finally to gentleness and calm at the end of the day. The various periods of the day represent in an idealized way the stages of life, from youth to adulthood, full maturity and finally to the eve of death.
The hymnal identifies the author of the hymn as “Jan Struther,” which was the pen name of Joyce Anstruther, an English writer best known for her stories about the fictitious Mrs. Miniver. The stories inspired a patriotic film that won Best Picture of 1942. The tune is a traditional Irish one that the hymnal calls Slane after a town in County Meath, Ireland, on the banks of the River Boyne. The Slane area has historic sites dating back to Neolithic times. By tradition, St. Patrick lit a Paschal fire on Slane Hill in the year 433 in defiance of a royal edict. Slane was a center of Christian learning in medieval times.
Here’s the last verse of the hymn, suitable for the eve of the day or for the end of life:
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm, whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm: Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray, your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.2 There was given to me a thorn in the flesh. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities.3
I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.4 Hannah … was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and … wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life. The Lord remembered her.5
We know not what we should pray for as we ought.6 He shall choose our inheritance for us.7
July 25 is the traditional feast day of Saint James the Apostle. James, whose Hebrew name sounded more like Ya-kob, was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee and was one of the first disciples to be called, along with his brother John and two other fishermen-brothers, Peter and Andrew. James was prominent among the disciples and active in preaching after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He was killed by King Herod Agrippa around the year 44 (Acts of the Apostles 12:2). He is probably not the author of the Epistle of James in the New Testament, there was another disciple also named James who is a better candidate for that. Jesus called James and his brother John “Boanerges,” a Greek word meaning “sons of thunder,” which may reflect a hot temper.
After James’ death, many legends sprang up about him. It was said that he had traveled as far as Spain to found the Christian church there and that his body or other relics had been taken to Spain and were to be found in the Church of Saint James in Compostela (in Galicia, northwestern Spain). The Latin word for “church of James” was “Sancti Iacobi.” This evolved over time into the Spanish “Santiago.” Santiago remains a common Spanish name. Santiago de Compostela was one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the Middle Ages and has recently become popular again because of books and movies, including the 2010 movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen. Saint James is considered the patron saint of Spain. His emblem was a scallop or cockle shell and his popularity throughout Europe is reflected in the words for scallops (e.g., French coquille St. Jacques, German Jakobsmuschel) and in the continuing popularity of the names James, Jacob, Jacqueline, Jaime, and Diego.
Over its long history, Christianity has given rise to various legends. These do not take away from the reliability of the New Testament accounts. It was because James was a prominent disciple and apostle that later Christians went to the trouble of remembering him, building churches in his name, and making legends about him. On July 25, it is good to remember that James, the brother of John, was called from his business of fishing by a remarkable rabbi who promised to make him a “fisher of men.” James followed Jesus, heard his teachings, saw his miracles including his radiant appearance on the mountain of the Transfiguration, stayed with him during his final agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, ran away when Jesus was arrested and crucified, but joyfully hailed his resurrection when Jesus appeared alive again after his death. James devoted the remainder of his life to spreading the good news of Jesus, even though it cost him his life.
In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a band of pirates has, for their greed, been cursed by ancient Aztec gods to live forever as skeletal beings whose true nature is revealed only when moonlight shines on them. (There is some confused metaphysics here, but let’s grant the premise.) One aspect of this cursed existence is that while they can loot and pillage, the undead pirates cannot taste food or drink or even feel the wind and rain on their faces. They are cut off from all the joys of life that come through feeling the world around them. They realize they are in a hellish state and work desperately to undo the curse. When the curse finally ends (spoiler alert!), the pirate leader receives a mortal wound, but for one moment he almost smiles as he says, “I feel . . . cold.” And then he dies.
We are like those pirates in a certain way, but with much better prospects. Like them, we are, for our sins, cut off from true life, the life of intimacy with God. Like them, we will live forever (we will live even after we die). We have two choices, to spend eternity with God or without him. Fortunately, we do not have to work desperately to undo the curse that cuts us off from God. God himself has done it through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If we repent our sins and trust in Jesus, then when we die (and even before we die) we can say, “I feel . . . love!” And then we can spend eternity wrapped in that love of God that is always new.