With a Song in my Heart – 40 Days of Sacred Songs
Day 11 – Monday after 2nd Sunday of Lent
To Listen: Blessed Assurance
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Saviour am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
From the Scriptures:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Once there was a scheming young Christian living in Cape Town who, having submitted his name for a Selection Conference for Ordination Training (in the Church of England this is known as BAP) decided that he needed an ‘edge’ to ensure he would end up as a Reverend. One of his Home Group friends mentioned that the Archbishop of Cape Town’s Chaplain – the much loved and missed Revd Ivan Weiss – was leading a Retreat in the ‘Coloured’ Township of Hanover Park and if I went I might gain an advantage. I jumped at the chance! Apart from the frisson of cocking a snook at one of the petty rules of Apartheid (it was illegal to stay overnight in a Group Area of the ‘Wrong Colour’) I knew how to cope with a Retreat. I had been on a few in Leiston Abbey when I was at School. Don’t talk too much, listen to the Chaplain read from ‘Don Camillo’ during meals, and have strict silence/go for a nap on the Saturday afternoon. No problem until…
…Ivan began the weekend that transformed my life by saying, ‘I don’t believe in retreats; I believe in advances!’ This was not, however, a cue for a weekend mayhem of noise and frenetic worship but an invitation to take God seriously and go deeper in prayer and worship. With a group of precious fellow pilgrims of all colours and from all sorts of backgrounds we spent three glorious days opening ourselves before God and each other and being healed of so many hurts and so much hatred.
As is the African way, church took time. One day we had a Communion service and our Conductor said we may need a long stretch of time for it. We began the service an hour before breakfast, stopped for our meal, carried on, had a tea break, and went back to Communion finishing, eventually, with the Schoenstatt Sisters (who ran the Retreat House) tut-tutting at us because we were late for lunch!
I had never, nor have never since, spent such a time of holiness and deep honesty with others.
When it came to the Gloria in Excelsis, we praised God for every small thing that had ever happened around us that reminded us of God’s presence in the world..
When it came to the sermon, we told our own stories of God at work in the world and in our lives.
When it came to the confession, we opened our hearts and hurts in public knowing that each of us was priest to the other.
Our intercessions were at the same time deep and almost flippant – ‘Lord’ said a vicar’s wife ‘the next time my husband invites a homeless person to stay for a night please don’t let them use my toothbrush in the morning!’
The Peace, after we had washed each other’s feet, went on for a glorious eternity as each person held on to their sister or brother and told them how they saw Christ in them.
And for me there was a moment, after our confessing of our sins out loud to each other and a silence in which we soaked up the Absolution Ivan pronounced, that I felt the presence of my Redeemer Jesus, standing behind me and, wrapping His arms around me, my Beloved whispered into my ear, ‘Andrew, you are mine.’
Wow! That night I tried to sleep but every time I closed my eyes there was still bright daylight surrounding me. So I gave up and spent the evening quietly (or so I thought until my dorm buddies laughingly told me over breakfast) singing worship songs.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Well, no, not really.
Our language and our old nature fails us doesn’t it? Not then and not ever ever again was lie about, ’Jesus is mine’. Much more I knew deep in my being that I belonged to Jesus and nothing, not even me, could separate me from God’s love. I was held. I could never ever be snatched me from the hand of the One Who Loves us Best.
The prayer of self- abandonment of Ignatius (The Suscipe), which I was to learn later, says it all;
Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me.
To Thee, O Lord, I return it.
All is Thine,
dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and Thy grace,
for this is sufficient for me
Was I accepted for Ordination Training at the Selection Conference that followed at Bishopscourt in Cape Town? Kind of. I was given a ‘yes, but not yet,’ at the gentle hands of my spiritual guide Ivan Weiss. I was not disappointed though as I knew in a new and deeper way who it was that had the Whole World in His Hands including ‘itty bitty’ me.
may we find wisdom in your presence
and set our hope not on uncertain riches
but on the love that holds us to the end;
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
1) Look at the time you spend in Daily Prayer. For the rest of Lent can you extend it? Would it be too much to ask to try and double it?
2) Go to the place where you know you are most likely to meet the One Who Loves us Best (Rumer Godden calls it a ‘trysting place’) and allow yourself to be loved.
Reprise: It is Well With my Soul
Later on, after my company had moved me to Johannesburg for three months of work experience (I never went back to live in Cape Town) I was blessed to find that the answer to Ivan Weiss’ comment of ‘yes, but not yet,’ was found in the love and the arms of Lesley-Anne. Her beloved father Noel Hendry, a Methodist Local Preacher, sincerely asked me most times we met ‘Is it well with your soul Andrew?’ Then he would hum the tune to this familiar hymn and I would know once more that I was safe in the arms of Jesus.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul.
(Horatio Gates Spafford)
Please Note: These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin
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Prayers are adapted from the Psalm Prayers in the Common Worship Psalter. material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘With a Song in my Heart’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022