Psalm 70 verse 4
But let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; ?
let those who love your salvation say always, ‘Great is the Lord.’
Would you say ‘Great is the Lord’, at the moment? Or would you be more likely to say, ‘Where is the Lord?’, or even ‘Perhaps the Lord isn’t as great as he thinks he is.’
Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of things happening that are beginning to give hope. The vaccines are being distributed remarkably well. The days are getting warmer so the infection rates are likely to correspondingly reduce. Financial commentators are suggesting the economy will not be as badly hit as we thought it might.
But there’s also a lot of things that point to pent up frustration . The response of police in the Clapham Common vigil over the weekend was certainly inglorious but does it give an impression of pent-up frustration, albeit breaking out in entirely inappropriate ways? A result not to be tolerated, but one in which it is possible to see the stages that led to it, starting with the pent-up frustration of the police from a lengthy lockdown and their role in having to enforce it.
Others will be feeling heightened uncertainty and anxiety as they seek dates that can be relied upon to open up life further, to be able to travel, to be able to hug, to be able to sing. Dates that are impossible to say with any certainty. Still others will be remembering the past year and the trauma they or people they love have been through, leading to broken relationships or loss of income as rich and poor get increasingly further apart in a post lockdown Britain. Others will think of long stays in hospital, loneliness and even death. Most of us know at least one person who has died.
The fact remains that wherever you are personally in all this, the surest way I know in getting through the crisis emotionally in one piece is to seek the Lord in the middle of turmoil. That is what s going to enable you to say ‘Great is the Lord’, and mean it! If you want some concrete salvation and meaning today rather than just something more ethereal and airy-fairy when we die, then maybe the answer is to look at what the Lord might be working towards, rather than what you might actually want. That’s loving him and that’s what brings stability and a firm hope. If the police at Clapham had managed that, it might have been a very different outcome, and we might have been able to use the word salvation in the same breath as Clapham Common more easily.
God of love, compassion, and healing, we pray to you:
For women and girls who have experienced violent relationships,
that they can find safety and healing from their trauma, and rebuild their lives;
For children who have witnessed violence in their homes against their mothers and sisters and other family members,
that they will experience healing and hope;
For indigenous women and refugee women who have been impacted by extreme violence,
that deep and lasting change will ensure their safety;
For individuals and organizations working to prevent violence against women and girls and help survivors of violence,
that their courage and generosity will endure;
For men who speak out against forms of expression that demean women or condone violence against them,
that their voices will grow stronger;
For the men and boys who have behaved violently towards women and girls
that they will have a change of heart, repent in meaningful ways, and seek whatever help they need to lead changed lives.
God of love, we commend these prayers to you and for your compassion to flood the hearts of all people.
We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the Holy Spirit.
Here is another sonnet by Malcolm Guite
Sonnet 6 from the Stations of the Cross – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus (from the book Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press)
Bystanders and bypassers turn away
And wipe his image from their memory
She keeps her station. She is here to stay
And stem the flow. She is the reliquary
Of his last look on her. The bloody sweat
And salt tears of his love are soaking through
The folds of her devotion and the wet
folds of her handkerchief, like the dew
Of morning, like a softening rain of grace.
Because she wiped the grime from off his skin,
And glimpsed the godhead in his human face
Whose hidden image we all bear within,
Through all our veils and shrouds of daily pain
The face of God is shining once again.