Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 15: Praise God

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”-Philippians 4: 4-7

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

The Doxology, as we know it, was written 1674 by Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Beyond his excellence in oratory and hymnody, Ken was a principled man.

Before Ken became a Bishop he was the Royal Chaplain to King Charles, II of England. Charles raised Ken to the Bishopric, as he was especially impressed with Ken’s stern refusal to house the king’s mistress in the Chaplain’s quarters. Again, Ken’s principled character was on display when he refused to sign King James, II’s Declaration of Indulgence—to be signed by all clergy. James was Roman Catholic, and found issue with the Church of England as the governmental and cultural ruling body; therefore, his declaration was pitched as a freedom of religion act, if you will. Ken and other Anglican’s saw this move by James as a way of promoting Roman Catholics to positions of power. James move came only a century after King Henry VIII lobbied parliament to declare him Supreme Head of the Church of England, inaugurating an economic, liturgical, and social break from the Roman Catholic Church. Ken’s refusal to sign James’ declaration landed him in the Tower of London. He was soon released, and James was overthrown.

So, today, we celebrate a principled Anglican. But, most of all, Ken was a prayerful Anglican. Ken was also a poet, and a prolific writer of prayers, which, essentially, is how we get the Doxology—a prayer of praise and thanksgiving!

Paul the Apostle, who penned our scripture reading, and Thomas Ken share something in common: as Ken was thrown into the Tower of London for refusing to comply with King James, II, Paul was writing to the church in Philippi sitting in a jail cell awaiting execution by the hands of the Roman Empire. And as Paul writes from his jail cell to the church in Philippi he wants to say to them that in all things, in all situations, through the darkest of hours, “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”

The season of Lent can be a trying time. Many of us are in our second week of fasting, praying, and alms giving. And my guess is—I could be wrong—that many of us have come up short of the Lenten goals we have set before ourselves. And this is okay. As St. John of the Cross reminds us, “The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.” And that second principle of our Lenten discipline is essential to carrying out our lofty Lenten goals. It is essential that we push forward through this penitential season, prayerfully.

It will be the quieting our minds that centers our turbulent souls. As we struggle to turn from desire, greed, and the superficiality of material neediness, Paul points us to God—he points to communion with God through prayer and supplication. Our turn from a need of ‘things’ to a moment with God reveals to us that God has given us all we need through our being, our very breathing—God has given us the ultimate gift, which is life. And somehow an inward recognition of and thankfulness for the very gift of breath provides an incomprehensible peace. It is a peace that positions us to remain focused on God and unwavering in our convictions to be not tempted by the ways of the world.

Paul was unmoved by the Roman Empire just as Thomas Ken was unmoved by the British Monarchy. They knew, wholeheartedly, that their mission was a God-centered mission. And God-centered mission is one upon which we must embark gently, knowing that the Lord is near, and worrying about nothing.

May we prayerfully and gently push through this Lenten season, knowing that we don’t have to rely on our own or anyone else’s devices, because the Lord is near. And for that we must give God thanksgiving, and continually ask for that peace that passes all understanding!


Paul Daniels is spending a year working with the Anglican Cathedral of Grahmstown, South Africa. 

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