Friday, May 27, 2011

God is our refuge and our strength…we do not fear…though waters rage…the Lord of hosts is with us. Psalm 46, 2-4

This week’s focus and message is a prayer for the safety of our whole parish family as we set out to enjoy the summer days that are upon us. A few year ago, I had the privilege to offer a blessing for the fleet at the Long Island Yacht Club. Watching the boats head out put me in mind of our own diverging courses this summer. Some of us will follow the fleet out onto the Bay, others will enjoy family and friends in our own backyards, while the more venturesome will take to the highways or even cross country or oceans to exciting destinations. The valedictory prayer for the fleet was a very familiar nautical hymn that touches on two related, fundamental themes – our total dependence on God and the saving grace that is ours for the asking. I offer it as a compact summary of our faith, to pack and take with us this summer.

“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is a salutation sung in both Britain’s Royal Navy as well as the U. S. Navy. It is simply called “The Navy Hymn.” But over the years its stirring petition for divine protection has extended well beyond the Navy. And so we invoke it this summer. Not only “For those in peril on the Sea”--- but for our whole parish family. We acknowledge the tenuous fragility of our human condition and the juxtaposed joys and dangers of summer travel and recreation.

This universal benediction extends to passengers, crews, swimmers, skiers, divers, surfers, waders and particularly poolside children. All of which remains very true to the hymn’s origins. It was originally written as a poem – a gift for a student about to journey across the Atlantic. In 1861 John Dykes, an Anglican priest, composed the powerful score “Melita” to set the poem to music. ‘Melita” is an archaic term for Malta, the ancient Mediterranean seafaring nation that was the site of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on his journey to Rome. In Acts we learn how Paul’s faith gave hope and courage to all aboard and God saved them from the storm. In that spirit we pray for God’s protection this summer and for a safe return from travels near and far.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddist the mighy ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word
Who walkest on the foaming deep
And calm amidst its rage did sleep
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Father, King of Earth and Sea
We dedicate our selves to thee
In faith we set out on our way
In faith to Thee we humbly pray:
O hear from Heaven your children’s cry
And watch and guard us from on High!

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