Lord God, keep your household the Church grounded in continual godliness, we humbly pray, so that by your protection it may be free from all adversities, and may devoutly serve you in good works to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Psalm for Anglicanism ? A Modern Musing.
Psalm 44 from the lectionary of the day.
1. We have heard with our ears O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. Not all of us in our day are familiar with the saga of the reformed catholic Church of England. Many of us in the Anglican Communion are indifferent to our long term history, and there are many who wish to either ignore it or reverse it. The 16th century Ecclesia Anglicana moved with cautious heroism into the family of Reformed Churches, retaining loyalty to the ancient creeds, guarded respect for the church fathers, and everything from the past that could be deemed consonant with Holy Scripture. All preceding orthodoxy and its saintly exponents of earlier generations were deeply cherished and inclusive within our precious Christian heritage that respected the Bible as the Word of God. Our Reformers established a sound scriptural foundation for our faith in God, our obedience to his will, and the worship of his Name. Those days long ago need to be recaptured in our minds. The past needs to enter our present with renewed power.
2. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. Just as Israel had to establish a holy land so the pastors and scholars of the English Church had to embrace and advocate the holy truth of divine revelation. With fluctuating fortune, the providence of God, the men of the Reformation were greatly blessed, a renewed Church graced the land, and continual reform of the Church in line with Scripture was the aspiration. No wonder that the French author Victor Hugo could remark that, “the Bible made England!”
3. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Human instrumentalities are always used in the advancement of Christ’s cause on earth, but the effectiveness is always the Lord’s. Divine power, his love, and his favor achieve good and godly ends.
4. You are my king and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob. The beleaguered believer always reckons on the fact that the phases and developments of history are dispensed by the rule of God. History is the domain of his sovereign direction. So too, the Church knows that its weal and welfare is determined by God through the fluctuations between blessing and judgment - his presence or withdrawal.
5. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. It is God alone who can fend off our opponents or repulse those who distort his truth or pollute his worship; those who oppress us with sinful behavior and example that mars our peace and safety - those still of the world, being carnal, and those who infiltrate the people of God and disturb their godliness and righteous sensibilities with wrong and wicked ways. Where the power of truth subsides immorality attains dominion and popular support. Irrationality and depravity prevails, as in our generation - a new “era of the judges” as recounted between the books Joshua and Ruth.
6. I do not trust my bow, my sword, does not bring me victory; Human expertise and endeavor do not overcome the forces and influences of moral evil and doctrinal error. What ever our equipage we cannot boast about or rely on “our bow” the responses we fire in the field of battle, or “our sword”; of hand to hand conflict. Apologetics and polemics are useless without the prompting and help of the Lord, for they are temptations to a self-congratulatory frame of mind. “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19). Defenders and proponents of the faith need the same upholding and accurate aim of the Speaker of all truth. Dealing with today’s situation we all of us need great and special grace in our speech concerning God and his Gospel. No showing off! (lairizing, Aust)
7. But you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. This is the antithesis to human self-confidence in the struggles of the faith, doctrinal and practical. Humility is the approach. God will defend himself through the self-offering of his people and their utter dependence upon the Lord: “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12: 11-12). This encouragement does not, of course, obviate the task of preparation where possible; it affects delivery, as with Samuel).
8. In God we make our boast all day long, and will praise your name forever. The psalmist is keenly aware that in all things, but especially in any form of conflict, that he must totally place his confidence in God. He is a man of godly, holy, trusting heart. He affirms that God is reliable. But the covenant relation involves two parties - Yahweh and Israel. The covenant arrangement entails blessing and penalty. It requires joint faithfulness. Infidelity toward God cannot be overlooked by a good and just God. Leniency from God may provide recall to himself but initial correction or chastening is necessary to intelligent conviction of wrongdoing and offense, and beyond this, to deliberate repentance; education and re-entry to favor.
9. But now you have rejected us and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. Israel wantonly forfeited the favor and fighting strength of God. The faithful psalmist laments the decadence of his nation. We are Israel, believing Jews and Gentiles together. You might say that Anglicanism is one of the tribes. Have we departed so very far from the Lord (Article 9) that he has withdrawn from us?
Will there ever be a whole-hearted return to our rootedness in truth and the loyalty to Scripture? Will our Augustinian tradition once again prevail as grounded in Paul, the apostles and prophets? Will a remnant be raised up to hold the fort. The Church “is a Guardian of Holy Scripture” (Article 20).