Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 7th March 2021.
During Lent we are having a service of Evening Prayer for Lent on Zoom each Wednesday at 6.00pm, up to and including 24 March. Some of you reading this will have joined one or both of the Zoom sessions we have had so far. Each service includes a reflection on a Lenten hymn. Next Wednesday, our Lay Reader, Bridget Spencer, will give a reflection on ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’. If you would like to join one of our Wednesday services, and you do not already have the Zoom link, please email me and I will send you the link. You can find my email address on the Who’s Who page of the Castor Church web site.
Last Sunday, in my ‘Thought for the Day’, I also reflected on a hymn: ‘Lord of all hopefulness’. When I sat down to write the reflection, I wasn’t intending to adopt the Wednesday pattern of reflecting on a hymn. That’s just how it turned out! After my Thought for the Day went out, I received an email from a lady parishioner suggesting that I might reflect on another hymn in my Thought for the Day “as it fits in so well with our Lent reflections”. So here goes!
This week I have been struggling to think of a topic for today. But on Thursday, whilst reading Morning Prayer, I read Psalm 34, which was the Psalm set for Morning Prayer on that day. And it brought back to mind one of my favourite hymns (of which there are many!): ‘Through all the changing scenes of life’. And here’s why.
As the hymn was written in 1696, the writers (Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady) would no doubt have reflected on the version of Psalm 34 in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Here are verses 3 and 4 of the Psalm:
‘O praise the Lord with me :
and let us magnify his Name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me :
yea, he delivered me out of all my fear.’
As you will see, these two verses have been paraphrased in the second verse of the hymn:
‘O magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt his name;
When in distress to him I called.
He to my rescue came.’
Here are verses 7 and 8 of the Psalm:
‘The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him :
and delivereth them.
O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is :
blessed is the man that trusteth in him.’
And the corresponding verse in the hymn is:
‘The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance he affords to all
Who on his succour trust.’
I won’t go through the similarities between Psalm 34 and all the verses the hymn, but I would just like to make two observations.
The first is that a lot of our older hymns are inspired by passages from the Bible. Very often verses in the Bible are paraphrased, to make them fit the metre of a hymn verse. By reading or singing a hymn, we are often, in effect, reading what it says in the Bible, and therefore teaching ourselves about God’s word as revealed in the scriptures.
The second point is that, if you read Psalm 34 and the hymn ‘Through all the changing scenes of life’, you will see that both are about trusting in God. Trust is an appropriate topic to think about as we journey through the pandemic.
We need to have faith and trust that we will overcome the pandemic and the restrictions will come to an end. We need to be patient and trust God that all will in due time be well. Corrie ten Boom (real first name Cornelia) was a Dutch watchmaker and later a writer. She was also a Christian. She worked with her family to help many Jews escape from the Nazis during the Holocaust in World War II, by hiding them in her home. On the subject of trust she said: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” That seems to me to be just the sort of quotation we need to keep reminding ourselves about, to get us through the pandemic. We need to put our trust in God that, in the words of the 14th century mystic writer, Mother Julian of Norwich, “all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.
So whether we are bored, or frustrated, or depressed or just plain fed up of the lockdown restrictions, I suggest the Bible is the place to go to, to remind ourselves to put our trust in God, and to find a few verses of encouragement and hope that our suffering will eventually be over. Here’s just one example that immediately comes to mind:
‘Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God;
for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.