Today I was meant to be leading University Chapel prayers. Like everything else, it's suspended in real life, and the Chaplaincy are working out how best to get it on line. For now, we are submitting typed reflections. Here's mine for today, along with the hymn I chose and the Bible reading...
Hymn - Amazing Grace
Bible Reading - Hebrews 6: 13-20 (NIV)
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
We find ourselves in a very strange time, don’t we? Just days ago we could go where we wished, book holidays, enjoy films or theatre, eat out and mingle freely. Now we find ourselves locked down, staying at home, suspicious of anyone we pass who coughs and standing aghast as supermarket shelves are stripped bare of every conceivable product – except, it seems, wholemeal pasta: no-one is hoarding that!
Since announcements on Monday evening, I have hardly been off the phone or email, as events are cancelled, postponed or moved online. I have been grateful for technology, and platforms such as Skype and Zoom that allow me to connect with other people. And I have been really moved by the gratitude of people I have contacted, just for a five-minute phone call or a quick email offering encouragement.
The Bible reading today reminds us of hope like an anchor, that holds us ‘sure and steadfast’, as the BB motto has it, even in the fiercest storms of life. What is that hope? God’s promise to Abraham? Well yes, but more than that, it is the hope we have in Christ Jesus himself, who promised his close friends that even though they would no longer see him, he would be with them until the end of time.
The psalmist says, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble, therefore [we] shall not fear…’ Truth is, probably, that we are all a bit ‘feart’ (or ‘frit’, as they said where I grew up) at the moment, and we’d be strange if we weren’t. But God is our anchor, our rock, our shelter, and is with us in all the uncertainty and strangeness. I say this not glibly, but resolutely, defiantly.
Whenever I am troubled by life, I remind myself of the beautiful vision of Revelation, where there is a renewed (or new) heaven and earth in which there is no fear, no death, no disease and no tears… Sometimes we cling to that hope by our fingertips, but cling to it we do. God is faithful, and no matter what, God is with us to the end of the age.
God of all times and places, in this time of confusion and uncertainty, we pray for the world you love so much, where disease and dis-ease wreak havoc and hope seems in short supply.
We pray for all national and international leaders, as they make important decisions that affect our lives, that they will be wise and compassionate.
We pray for all scientists working tirelessly to understand and respond to this new virus, and for all in hospitals and health care settings who tend those who are really ill, that they will have the skills they need, and also that they will care for themselves and find places to rest and be refreshed.
We pray for everyone who is part of this ancient University, from senior management making tough decisions, to facilities staff maintaining hygiene and security.
We pray for those who are anxious as courses are suspended, both teaching staff and students.
We pray for students who are far from home, unable to be with those they love, and unsure when travel will once again be possible.
It’s all too big – our words fail us – but we recall with gratitude that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans beyond words.
So, accept our prayers, our emotions, our bewilderment, and grant to each of us the courage, compassion and common sense we need for the days ahead.
This we pray in the name of Christ.