Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
-- BCP, page 219
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22;
Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
I am pleased to introduce our guest columnist, The Rev. Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest who has served parishes in Indianapolis, Missouri, North Carolina, and New York. He is also a writer and publisher. Click here. to view his website. This column first appeared on January 13, 2018, in his blog "On The Road" and is reprinted here with permission.
Under the Mercy,
"Abide with Me"
by Tom Ehrich
the year 1847, the Great Famine was decimating Ireland, causing many
impoverished Irish families to migrate to the United States and Canada.
In all, by 1930, more than half the population of Ireland had fled
In April of that year, more than 250 Irish emigrants set sail from Derry, most of them women and children joining their men on farms in Canada. In a terrible storm, the Exmuth wrecked, drowning all but three passengers.
In that same year, a coal mine explosion in Yorkshire killed 77 men and boys. The Bronte sisters published novels under male names in order to avoid rejection.
In November 1847 -- and the reason for mentioning this at all -- a Scottish clergyman named Henry Francis Lyle wrote a poem entitled "Abide with me," about enduring the deepening "darkness" in his life. His plea:
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Three weeks later he died from tuberculosis.
Paired with William Henry Monk's tune "Eventide," "Abide with me" became one of Christianity's favorite hymns, sung often at funerals and state events. It touched the entire world in 2012 when Scottish singer Emeli Sande performed it at the London Olympics in a commemoration of the 2005 subway bombing in London.
At the moment when Sande sang the hymn's final words --
|Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;|
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
-- a young boy was held aloft by dancers representing survivors of terrorism. The message was clear: There is a future worth straining toward, because "in life, in death" our Lord abides with us.
Nihilists wanting only to destroy cannot kill hope. Despots wanting power in order to fill their empty souls cannot prevent God's light from shining "through the gloom." Though tragic bullies and cowards bellow their hatred, God's grace will "spoil the tempter's power," drain the "bitterness" and take away "death's sting."
We can endure. We can survive even the worst of men and women who seem to have us in their gunsights. We can survive the hysteria and terror of our neighbors. We can seek new life even when custodians of old hatreds ascend our thrones.
Evil cannot withstand the good. Death cannot prevent life. We might think this moment in world history the collapse of everything that has kept us sane and moving forward, but God's "truth abideth still." We have not been left comfortless. The darkness that captures human souls cannot defeat the light of Christ.
We can speak our truth to power, and, in God, that truth will push through liars and pretenders. We can love our children, and, in God, that love will change tomorrow. We can embrace our neighbors, and that welcome will till the soil of justice in a springtime not yet seen.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.