Pastoral Letter

Friday, 18th September 2020

Dear Friends,

Looking at the lectionary readings for Friday 18th I noticed that the designated Psalm was Psalm 121 in my version entitled, ‘a Psalm of assurance’. I realised that I could recite most of it by heart. It must have been a Psalm I learned as a child as I found myself reciting it in the King James version, a version of the Bible I rarely use.

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

As I reflected on this, I realised that the old language linked me with the past: for hundreds of years this Psalm has been recited and millions have found assurance in its words, and, in turn have passed them on to others. As God was faithful to them, so too will he be to us; “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

Without meaning to I’ve quoted the Bible again. (Hebrews 13:8) When did I learn this verse? Why does it come so easily to mind? The Bible is the word of God: he has chosen to speak to us through it, to speak into our lives bringing hope and assurance. But it also challenges us: it is not to keep for ourselves but to pass on to others, to encourage them in their faith and to offer them comfort in a time of need. It offers them glimpses of a God who loves them.

As a child in Sunday school I was given a sticker each week I attended. On the sticker was a Bible verse to learn for the following week. How many of those verses stuck and have come to mind when I most needed them, I will never know, but the answer is numerous. Like paying into a bank’s savings account, each verse was a deposit for a rainy day.

Learning Bible verses by rote was something which went out of fashion a long time ago, but maybe we have lost something important. I offer to you, and to myself, a challenge. Let’s commit ourselves to spending more time reading our Bibles, and when a verse resonates with us, let’s take the time to meditate and reflect on it so that it takes root within us. At some point in the future the Holy Spirit will remind us of that verse, using it to minister to others or ourselves. As it says in Isaiah 55:11,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
     it will not return to me empty,
  but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Deacon Michelle Goddard