TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
The second page of reflections from the booklet 'Walking with God' by Chester Cathedral. Various people were asked to choose a Bible passage and explain its significance to them.
You can find the first page here
Each Wednesday, hopefully till the church reopens, a new reflection from the booklet will be posted.
The whole booklet can be found here. It will be printed shortly and available for when the cathedral reopens – it will be made freely available with a request for a contribution to Alzheimers Society.
Chosen reference: Matthew Chapter 6 Verse 33
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these
things will be given to you as well.
This verse is part of Jesus’ teaching to a crowd gathered on a mountain 2,000 years ago, and yet it has guided all of the most difficult decisions in my life. Attempting to meet the needs of a son with severe learning difficulties for 40 years has constantly presented challenges. Unable to find similar examples to follow, my wife and I have found ourselves as trailblazers in the care of our son, totally dependent on God as a guide. As he promises, God had gone before and prepared us for the task ahead. Our engagement was spent sharing the training of a church choir whose favourite hymn was “Seek ye First the Kingdom of God”, and they sang these words in the church we visited on our honeymoon. God must have known we needed to learn this lesson well to survive the bumpy road ahead!
Jesus knew how to speak to each of his listeners on that mountainside and to address individual concerns about food, clothing and a host of other things. In the same way I believe he speaks to each of us today about the things in life which can distract us from seeking his Father’s kingdom.
Chosen reference: Matthew Chapter 6 Verse 19-21
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
In life it is very easy to be drawn in to a competitive life style with material possessions becoming all-consuming e.g. the size of one’s bank balance and house, exotic holiday’s, one’s career. The problem with this is if we pursue these things totally blindly - with no thought of our spiritual life - the perceived happiness we believe that will come with the possession of more and more is just a myth. What you end up with is a very shallow version of happiness at best, which will not sustain you long term.
Unfortunately it is a fact of life that we don’t always enjoy good times, and it is during these less than good times that we discover that shallow happiness will not sustain us through a difficult period. If you have been mindful of your spiritual life, you at least have something to draw on. It will not be easy - but you are much more likely to feel an inner strength that will help sustain you.
What this verse also tells me is that we have a loving God, whose love for us is totally unconditional. No matter where you are in your life- he is always there for you.
Jeremiah Chapter 1 Verse 5
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a
prophet to the nations.
As a young man I struggled with my faith and was a bit of a rebel. However, music and my passion as a church organist kept me in contact with the faith I inherited. I never thought in those days that I would or could be an ordained Priest in the Church of England. It was only at the age of 35 that I realised this could be my calling and pursued a way forward.
This wonderful conversation at the beginning of Jeremiah’s prophecy always reminds me of this and that God calls each one of us to serve Him in so many different ways - often much to our surprise!
After over 30 years in the ordained ministry I still am amazed that God has used me and others in this way. I still feel that ‘I speak like a child’ but I am called to remember that children often speak with innocence and poignancy, and that the statement ‘before you were born I set you apart’ assures us that God knows each one of us personally and can use us - if and when we respond.
Chosen reference: Isaiah Chapter 65 Verse 17
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall
not be remembered or come to mind.
I’ve always enjoyed meeting with Christians from different parts of the Church.
I’m convinced too that in today’s interlinked world we need to come alongside
those from other faith backgrounds and all people of good will. We need fresh
thinking for the good of one another, in working for our communities together,
and for the sake of the planet.
The Old Testament prophet helps me with this, announcing God’s creation of
new heavens and a new earth. The prophet’s vision includes a city where there
will be no more weeping, no infant dying young, everyone living out a long
lifetime, a person’s labour being rewarded with a secure home and provision
for daily needs. It’s a picture of a new Jerusalem, but it could be our city of
Chester as we want it to be, with no-one left on the margins. If I keep such a
vision at the heart of my thinking I will find many fellow travellers beyond any
confines of creed and background.
It’s a Bible text about God’s gift of a new creation. Not something we’ll achieve
on our earthly pilgrimage but it’s a great vision to inspire us and work together
Chosen reference: Isaiah Chapter 43 Verse 4
Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you, I give
people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.
How this verse has helped me in my life:
I first heard these verses as a University student in the throws of relationship-rebound and study-stress. A college Chaplain quoted them in conversation. They immediately caught my attention and I went to look them up as I could not remember ever having read them in my Bible. They were a rich find, somehow opening up God’s utterly unconditional love for me in a fresh and breathtaking way.
I started to spend some time each morning reading them and going beyond to other unfolding treasures in Isaiah. I’d read slowly and sit quietly, breathing in the prophet’s words and absorbing the impact of their message. Looking back, it was a first stumbling discovery of contemplative prayer.
As the weeks went on, I gradually found myself feeling a new sense of peace and groundedness that would stay with me throughout the day.
Many years later, whenever life is especially demanding or stressful, or I feel myself spiritually adrift, I still return to these verses. They never fail to restore my perspective and deepen my sense of being held. Life looks very different when you know you’re loved.
Chosen reference: Isaiah Chapter 43 Verse 2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you
We have had devastating floods in various parts of the country earlier this
year. We know the damage and the anxiety that rising waters cause to those
most threatened. Sometimes life is like that and we feel overwhelmed by the
difficulties we encounter.
I remember a time when I was younger when I was at a crossroads wondering
what God had in store for me. I was thinking about the possibilities of ministry
and wasn`t sure I had the right gifts. I went to Scargill, a wonderful retreat
centre in Upper Wharfedale. There I took a walk which brought me to the
banks of the racing river. There were stepping stones across but they were
partially submerged. I felt afraid. But then I ventured out, trusting in God to
get me to the other side. And he did! And I learned the lesson to commit
to God and place ourselves in his hands, especially when we are anxious or
undecided about the future.
Isaiah Chapter 40 Verse 31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount
up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and
The first weekend in September 1976, was my first Residential Weekend on the North West Ordination Course, to train for Ordination and Ministry. Up to this point in my life, I’d spent over 20 years of my life working in Shipbuilding and Soap-making, and all my studies had been focussed on becoming a first class Mechanical Engineer. So, the world of theology and first class literature were a whole new world for me!
As the Course Chaplain spelled out what would be expected from us during the next 3 years of study in that ‘new world’ I was left reeling! Returning to my study/bedroom, I picked up my Bible, opened it at random; and my eyes lighted on my chosen text.
Next morning, I went to see the Course Principal (Revd Dr Peter Selby), and explained how overwhelmed I’d felt by what lay ahead. He was quick to reassure me, because having already done some preparatory work with me before I was accepted for training, he was confident that I would cope really well.
So, with his words of encouragement, and those from Isaiah, taking hold in my heart and mind, I continued on my journey of faith.
How this verse has helped me in my life:
The words from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 40: 3-4 has been an inspiration for me. It has helped me at different times of trial throughout my life. It reveals that God is ever there to support you - no matter how bad the road is or how troubled your journey, no matter how difficult and bumpy it appears, you will be calmed.
Keeping our eyes firmly on God allows us to bear that load which we often cope with in our daily lives. Our desert may be cluttered with the busyness of life that at times we forget to let God in. We often find tasks impossible to overcome and situations we find ourselves in become times of pain which we push away and fail to deal with. The burden deepens.
I pray this passage can speak to you as well as it does for me. At times of crisis when you feel that a mountain is before you and the path is uneven, allow God in and you will be amazed how much easier it is to climb the mountain you never thought you could get over and walk more easily over the rough road.
A voice cries:
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Chosen reference: Isaiah Chapter 9 Verse 2 and 6
For behold darkness shall cover the earth.
For unto us a child is born.
Bible texts come alive for me through their direct or indirect association with the very many choral works I have sung with a major UK Choir, and also with smaller groups too.
Having sung in over fifty performances of Handel’s great oratorio, ‘Messiah’, the magic is still there. The exuberance and joy of the birth of Jesus shines through and the music reflects the movement from darkness to light.
Messiah’ would not be complete without a reference to the soprano aria ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth’. The text is from 1 Corinthians 15:20 and leads into the choir singing unaccompanied, ‘Since by man came death’, (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). The atmosphere created by these, can be, for performer and audience alike, emotional, spine tingling and maybe life-changing too.
With regard to Choral Works one must not forget the many Requiems and Masses written following the Catholic Church. My absolute favourite is the Verdi Requiem which I know very well: the ‘Libera Me’, especially when the soprano soloist sings over the choir singing very quietly.
‘Requiem Aeternum’ - rest and peace forever.
‘Et Lux Perpetua’ - light and peace shine down forever.
For me, there are so many verses brought to life by a composer that to choose one is almost impossible, but overall, the verses that give hope, comfort and joy stand out.
Proverbs Chapter 24 Verse 3-4
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
In this verse I am reminded of the many generations who have made what we have in our care today. Their stones embody the beauty of the monument, the history of our city and the spirituality of a special place of gathering and worship.
Chester Cathedral is always changing and in making decisions for the future we are informed and inspired by its precious past.
Chosen reference: Psalm 122 Verse 1-2
I was glad when they said unto me “Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
These verses immortalised in the joyful anthem by Parry have meant much to us because of our love of beautiful buildings and music. Because of the welcome which we received when we arrived at the cathedral, it seemed appropriate to join the Welcome team to greet visitors and in a small way help them in their experience of God’s house. It has been a great joy and privilege to talk to the many people coming to the Cathedral, answering questions and sometimes providing a listening ear. There is a sense of pride when visitors express their appreciation of what they have seen and heard. We also value the fellowship and humour of other Welcomers which makes the time so rewarding.
The verse which speaks of our feet standing in the gates is literally true and gives encouragement to our welcome, (especially on a cold wet January afternoon!)
Chosen reference: Psalm 121 Verse 1 and 8
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
When I was a teenager we were friendly with a couple, Will and Florence who were members of the Pentecostal Church. They were both in their 50’s. As long as we had known them Flo was confined to bed with TB and had been in and out of sanatoria and had been told it was incurable. Various people had prayed over her and miraculously one day she got up from her bed and, within weeks, was walking round as if she had never had a problem. At the age of about 60 Will and Flo went as missionaries to the Congo, where they worked for about 10 years in conjunction with the Anglican Cathedral in Kinshasa - before retiring back to the UK. Throughout her illness Flo always said these these verses from Psalm 121 had kept her going.
We all go through good and bad times and when life is at a low ebb – these verses are very much a comfort - a reassurance that God is always with us.
Psalms 46 Verse 10 and Psalms 37 Verse 1
Be Still and Know that I am God.
Do Not Fret
Do Not Be Afraid
With joy I looked forward to retirement and volunteering where I could help support others so was not expecting to suffer illnesses with increasing experience of mental and spiritual pressures. Just this past year, I experienced hand surgery; bereavements, hospitalisation of close family and friends, and an elderly family member diagnosed with cancer.
I fell into the depths of despair where no usual support structures worked and spiritual foundations on which I’d built my life no longer sustained me. I came to the low point where I was not coping and felt on the verge of breakdown..
Then someone suggested I needed to ask people to specifically pray for me so I quietly approached several spiritually mature, experienced and trusted friends and am extremely grateful for their upholding me in such a way. I also asked for prayer from Guild members and found caring support amongst them too.
So…. I Know He IS God and I am endeavouring to learn how to be still and not to fret, be anxious or afraid. A life time’s learning I’m certain! Maybe it’s when you are at your most vulnerable you begin to learn, He IS God.