As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer
Saturday 23rd May 2020
‘Wide, wide as the ocean’
One of my favourite children’s’ choruses is ‘Wide, wide as the ocean.’ Written back in 1914 by Charles Milne, the chorus celebrates that we can never be separated from God’s love. I was once part of a group of church leaders from Scotland who visited Israel. One evening we took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee. From the back of the boat we had a time of worship, which included singing the chorus with great enthusiasm. Goodness knows what the locals thought! This is how the chorus goes:
Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heaven 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.
Its main strength is its simplicity. It is a great way of reminding people of all ages of the reality of God’s love and how it reaches everywhere. But there is one word that I have always felt uncomfortable with. It is the word ‘unworthy.’ If we are made in God’s image, if Jesus Christ has died for our sins, if the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts should we view ourselves as unworthy? There is more. In the words of 1 Peter 2:9 those who are in Christ are: ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession. I love the chorus, but the word ‘unworthy’ has always irked me.
In the spirituality of previous generation, a heightened awareness of person sin and imperfection was part of mainstream Christian faith and teaching. This was a significant feature of the puritan and Victorian evangelical traditions. This ‘sin’ was something we needed to ‘saved’ from. And living out our faith included wrestling with personal sin and trying the tame and overcome the imperfection that was within. In our modern world we have since learned the incredible damage that a poor or negative self-image can do. It can wreak havoc within a person’s life, especially for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of others.
So do we ditch the chorus, because it doesn’t fit in with the need for acceptance, affirmation and inclusion? I don’t think so. But what we do need is balance. We are still sinners in need of a saviour. We still need grace to lead us to the cross. Here Charles Wesley in his masterpiece Love Divine gets the balance right. He speaks of God’s love dwelling in the human heart and beginning a process of healing and change, till the stain of sin is erased. But note this, perfection is God’s work and not ours. It is only reached in eternity. It is only when we arrive in glory that we be fully and completely the people God created us to be.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
There is no alternative route into God’s Kingdom except by the cross. We are still sinners needing a saviour. But the saving work of Christ will only be complete once we reach eternity. So stop beating yourself up. Nestle and revel in the love that God has for you.
Remember the people whose wounds and scars are not visible on the outside.
Remember the people who have been violated and damaged by the actions of others.
Remember the people who view themselves as unworthy or second class.
Pray that the riches of God’s love and healing may become a reality.
Dear God, please reveal to us
your sublime beauty
that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere
so that we will never again
My divine love, my love,
Please let us touch
St. Francis of Assisi
Prayer for all those affected by Covid19
In our hour of need we turn again to you, for we have nowhere else to turn.
We put our faith in you, because you have proved your faithfulness time and again.
We reaffirm our love for you because you have never let us go.
We thank you that you are not distant from us.
but have drawn near, in your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
He has shared our life, tasted our death and defeated it;
He understands our worries and our fears.
Help us to respond as your children now.
We pray for this pandemic spreading across our world,
remembering all who have lost loved ones.
and praying for those seriously ill at this time.
We uphold the National Health Service.
as it responds to this added pressure on its already overstretched services.
We pray for doctors and nurses and all in the caring professions,
who work to help and support people as best they can.
We remember those working behind the scenes.
testing samples, confirming results, giving information to patients.
We uphold others trying to understand this virus better.
working to create an effective remedy.
We pray for our Governments in Westminster and Holyrood,
as they work with the best medical advice.
to guide us on how we should respond.
and what action we should take.
We pray that these guidelines might be taken seriously.
and that all would put them into action.
May this crisis bring out the best in us, not the worst.
Help us to live by faith and not by fear;
to build bridges not barriers,
and to resist all who would speak ill of any other group.
May we not forget our responsibility to one another,
not least to the vulnerable and voiceless in our communities.
Help us to find ways of keeping in touch and offering reassurance.
to those with underlying health issues;
for any who feel particularly vulnerable.
or in danger at present.
As the virus spreads.
we pray for the disruption it causes to normal life,
bringing new fears and anxieties:
We pray for those who have been laid off as their work disappears;
for financial hardship for individuals and businesses;
for the impact on the economy and pensions, when austerity has already left its mark.
We pray for those whose trips, both for business and pleasure, have been cancelled;
and others where events, long anticipated and planned for, have been postponed;
for those making contingency planning for home based work or child care or exams.
May our inconvenience not blind us to others’ loss.
We remember those.
who cannot visit loved ones in locked-down care homes;
for the elderly whose social contacts have been severely curtailed; help us to find creative ways of keeping in touch,
of assuring them they are not forgotten or ignored.
May congregations find new ways of living though this time.
May we not forget our faith, but draw strength from it.
So may our worship be heartfelt,
our fellowship deepen.
and our service increase.
God of grace and God of mercy,
hear our prayers at this time.
Strengthen us, by your Spirit, so that:
we may carry on our lives as best as we are able,
looking out for others,
showing love in action,
being faithful in prayer,
and bringing encouragement, hope and peace;
always trusting in you.
our Rock and our Redeemer.
These prayers we bring to you.
in Jesus’ name.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Wide, wide as the ocean