Jesus was once - more likely many times - asked what he meant by the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven. He used to give an answer that was simple, almost pedestrian. He would say “You know how distressing it is to lose something you value very much, and how wonderful it is that having searched high and low, you at last find it? You’re absolutely overjoyed. Well, that’s what discovering the kingdom of Heaven can be like".
Last week I rediscovered something I really value. It’s a heavy Celtic ring I've had for about forty years. Just as I was taking off metal things on me before having an MRI I realized it wasn’t on my finger. I was very sad to have lost it. It wasn’t that it was either old or expensive. It was neither, but it had come to mean a lot.
Weeks went by. I gave it up for lost. Then one day recently Paula, my wife handed it to me. I was overjoyed. It had been in her purse. For some reason I had forgotten that I had given it to her before the MRI procedure all those weeks ago. Nothing to do with old age of course! I was overjoyed, and as I savoured the joy of finding the ring, I recalled something that I had been told some years ago about how the whole church nearly lost a real spiritual treasure.
The Church of New Zealand was one of the last, maybe the last part of the Anglican Communion to revise its Prayer Book. It completed its work sometime in 1987. On the evening of the last day the members of the task force, who had worked long and hard on their assignment, met for a short simple service in which they offered their work to God. To lead this final time of prayer the members selected someone who had been Secretary of the Commission and had done yeoman work. His name was John Williamson.
While preparing for the service John wrote a text on a sheet of paper. When he read it and offered it as a prayer, its simple beauty immediately captured the hearts and minds of the commission. So much so that members were unanimous in suggesting that the text should be included in their submission to the whole Church.
It was late in the evening, some had left for home or the hotel, including John Williamson. Someone suggested that they rummage through the papers that were strewn around where he had been sitting. Sure enough his text was discovered in one of the waste paper baskets. Today it is treasured by millions of people in the world church. You have very likely offered this prayer yourself. Consider keeping it where you keep precious things.
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
Let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities.
In your Name we pray. Amen.
Perhaps it’s worth revising what I said. Put this where you keep precious things. However, make sure it’s available. It’s the kind of thing you will reach for from time to time.
Credit: Leo Lingtang