“In all our time” is a haunting phrase. To say it is to ponder for a moment on the fact that we are creatures of time with a limited span of life. Our assumption is that we shall live long. We project the length of our existence far into the future and dismiss from thought the inevitability of our demise. In the back of minds we know that we will not live forever and yet in our reckoning there is a sense of indestructibility. We see others pass but assume that death will delay its appointment with us. Even when we are shaken by the departure of another there is a deep-down sense of personal security, the feeling that come what may we shall make it through. Its as if we have a hold on life and an entitlement to go on. We favour ourselves that somehow we are special and an exception to nature's routine. We can leave a graveside with the notion of mortality but quickly reassure ourselves with life's normal pattern, into which we shall soon resettle, and its familiarity will be our comfort.
To think possessively of “our time” is a dubious claim. Time is God's and he apportions us a loan of an undisclosed measure of life in this world. He bestows and withdraws time according to his wisdom and pleasure. Between those two points we live in temporal uncertainty and all our plans are provisional. It becomes us to approach this fact with modesty. Men propose grandiose schemes and pursue great ambitions but they cannot estimate their outcome or endurance. Obituaries amply illustrate our limitations. All biographies finish with the letters QED. For good or ill God has determined, and will determine, for each life the place at which it shall be declared, “Quite enough done”. It will be a sudden interruption of our projects and expectations.
Our church and culture need a dose of realism as to the transience of life and what is at stake for the eternal wellbeing of the soul. In spite of all the reminders we receive as to the seriousness of life and the gravity of death we tend to view things in a trivial fashion. The world is littered with toys and affords innumerable distractions, and preparation for death and eternity is inadequate. Life has become endless playtime. The church, especially, is blameworthy. We have no urgent gospel message because we have no real grasp of the essence of the divine revelation which is to join us to God before the severance becomes irreversible. Jesus has become everything or anything to anyone, apart from the Saviour from sin and death. He is a convenience, a lucky charm, a genie, a best buddy, a “cheerer-upper”, but not our Almighty and sovereign rescuer from an evil nature and a lost eternity. The Christian faith has almost lost its meaning and usefulness. We are entertainers to itching ears, the purveyors of a sick joke to a silly audience. We are no longer credible because we have frittered away our noble Christian heritage in an immature way. Anglicanism used to be a strong and flavoursome broth; now it is a bowl of lukewarm water without nourishment. Our forebears used to choose no. 1662 from the menu; now we don't even have a menu. Our people are famished and have no idea what they are missing.
The Litany is one of the provisions in our Prayer Book that braces us for the realities of this life and eternity. It banishes all illusions and urges us to place confidence in God alone. The Master of all things, Maker of time, and source of all mercy, is our only safety and hope in life and death. His continual deliverance is our constant necessity. In all time, as it is allotted to us, we stand in absolute need of him and cannot afford to forget him.
We shall need to call upon him in our time of tribulation. Troubles in this world are certain and unavoidable for believers and unbelievers. In many ways they are the norm of our existence, slight or serious. Suppression of this fact is not successful. Ways of escape and denial are not effective. Tribulation assails us, or we are discomforted by the sight of affliction in the lives of others. Happiness in any genuine sense is precarious. We need deliverance from the evils of life and our selves. Every life story has its painful chapters. Blues and laments are common to every culture. Suffering to some extent spreads its pall over every life and it is naïve to think otherwise. Anglicanism is all about religious realism and it points us to the Good Lord for deliverance and consolation. Contemporary humanism is bleak and all together blank when it comes to a solution. Superficial religion is a raft of straw when the waters roll and the waves crash. Western religion is, in the main, flippant and fallacious.
In the time of our wealth and wellbeing we especially need to call upon God. Good fortune makes us forgetful of him. Wealth makes us self-congratulatory, self-important, superior, and insufferable. Health makes us hearty, hopeful, and enterprising. Favourable circumstances bewitch us with false security and assumption of permanent affluence and ready alertness, agility, and ability. But life changes unpredictably, and sometimes so suddenly. The author of Ecclesiastes exhorts us to enjoyment and gratitude in the good things of life but also to careful remembrance of God. He alone is solid, unchanging, and dependable. In all our times prosperity is possibly the most dangerous.
In the hour of death, for it will come, that specific and very solitary moment that no-one shares with us personally, our hearts cry out to and for God. Brief life is over and we are summoned to our Maker for an individual account of our time on earth. There may be short opportunity for review but not for revision. In that dark instant of our passing we shall need a Deliverer if we are to pass to the radiance of heaven. All will be revealed in the glare of his penetrating scrutiny of the soul. Every clock or timepiece we have ever seen will strike its disapproval of our waste of precious time to know the Lord as thoroughly and joyfully as we ought. We shall need his acknowledgement that we are, after all, his in Jesus Christ. “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes”.
In the Day of Judgement we shall most definitely need the deliverance of the Lord. We shall need our Justifier to declare that we are right before the Judge. We shall need our Sanctifier to certify that we are fit for fellowship with God. We shall need our Saviour-King to point us to the right-hand side of his throne. We shall need his kindly smile accompanied by his warm word of welcome, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (revelation 4:1). What rapture!
Blaise Pascal is good reading for a grasp of these serious matters.