Our Rich Liturgical Heritage
Our Sustaining God
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
There are, as I have discovered and re-affirmed over the best part of fifty years, many blessings and sustainable outcomes from the work of pastoral ministry. Three weeks ago, three of these came together. They dawned on me as I drove home from the parish of Maddington after a day’s work.
The first was from one of the set psalms for the morning. Psalm 46, so well-known through Luther’s hymn, A safe stronghold our God is still, and the more recent God is our strength and refuge by Richard Bewes, (sung to the tune of the Dambuster’s theme song), had come alive for me the previous day as I prepared for a Zoom Morning Prayer. What nourished me afresh were the words of God, ‘be still and know that I am God.’ They spoke to me in the midst of concerns that were not within my power to change. The psalmist’s recentring on God, whose words not only uphold His Creation and bring an end to warmongers, but also uphold those who come quietly to Him for refuge, refreshed me and helped me to minister to others that day.
The next took place in a nursing home, where we read the gospel for the following Sunday. Those reassuring words of our Lord from Matthew 14:27, ‘Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid’ rang in our ears afresh. It was a time of great joy, highlighted as we sang, after sharing around the table, the chorus, Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heavens above; deep, deep as the deepest sea, is my Saviour’s love. I, though so unworthy, still am a child of his care; for his Word teaches me that his love reaches me everywhere. The psalm and the gospel combined to remind us of the Trinitarian message of the love and authority of God combining to touch our lives as we trust him when the winds seem to be against us. He sustains his people by the ministry of the Holy Spirit applying the words of God in and through the various anxiety-producing trials of both life and discipleship.
But the icing on the cake was yet to come as I shared a home communion with two men (and the adult daughter of one of them) who had been partners in the gospel four decades ago. One, recently widowed and with increasing dementia, the other, caring for his wife suffering from severe Alzheimer’s, shared the two readings (Psalm 46 and Matthew 14:22-36) and the bread and the wine. There is no joy like that of sharing around the table with those whose love for the Lord, having stood the test of time and trials, still shines, and who are still rejoicing in their Saviour’s deep love for them. This love took him to Calvary and dealt with their sins once and for all, enabling them to feed on him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving.
It was the first time I had eaten the bread and shared the cup with these two men together since 1988, when we shared regularly on Sundays and prayed every other Saturday. It was a privilege for me, and it was great to see them encouraged by their fellowship with their Lord and with each other, along with Errold’s daughter. As I drove home rejoicing, singing and whistling the Dambuster’s tune, and the chorus, Be still and know that I am God, which we regularly sang with Rob playing the guitar, my heart was filled with joy at the prospect of the heavenly supper that lies ahead for all who embrace the Saviour. A prospect that will include all creation, fully sustained in its renewal, where dementia, death, war, sin and futility will be banished forever as we share in our Lord’s victorious resurrection. The apostle’s words, ‘the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21) say it all.