Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch Newsletter 17 May 2020

O God,
the source of all good desires,
all right judgements, and all just works:
give to your servants that peace
which the world cannot give;
that our hearts may be set to obey
your commandments,
and that freed from the fear of our enemies,
we may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It’s no secret that I favour liturgical prayer, ie set in a prayer-book or prepared before delivery. A Ramble isn’t the place to defend that view to fans of extemporaneous prayer. Except that the great so-called Common Prayers, from Cranmer closer to our own time, or the early Church Fathers, are rich in scripture and contain mini sermons in their short paragraphs. This prayer, The Collect for Peace from Evening Prayer, is a great example. Cranmer adapted and included it in his 1549 Book of Common Prayer, but it is of such ancient tradition that no-one really knows who first composed and prayed it. It seems that it was being prayed regularly in the early church.

It’s a prayer for peace, but, straight out of John 14, “Not as the world gives”. The world’s idea of peace is “absence of war,” “getting along,” “no shouting or fighting.” Jesus knows that for his people who live in a sinful world, that isn’t going to be possible. The peace he gives is an inner peace. This is how God gives peace: God’s forgiveness brings peace to hearts that are troubled by guilt and regret. God’s Word works a conviction in us that his promises and commands are true. That peace endures, even when we see conflict in our world, our families, and among our friends. That peace is the peace the angels sang about to the shepherds on Christmas Night.

It’s interesting how the next phrase is worded. It doesn’t say, “Defend us from our enemies.” It says “Defend us from the fear of our enemies.” Again, the prayer is asking for that inner peace – not the outer peace of the world. Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength … therefore we will not fear though the earth give way”, Psalm 23 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. The dark valley is still there. The world still rages. The earth still gives way. The virus still lurks and mutates. But the promise of God speaks to our hearts, telling us not to be afraid, because our God, the God who calls us his own, is with us in the Valley.

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