Tag Archives: Mercy

Lucernarium

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

We gather all to meet the night,

And sing of Christ Who bore our sin;

With warm hearts we, in lantern’s light,

Amongst our blood-bought baptized kin,

Now hear our Father’s Word anew,

And are invited in to pray.

We stand beneath the fading hue,

Awaiting here the longed-for Day –

That morn which marks the darkness’ end!

O come, our King, make sorrow flee,

And comfort us, our Dearest Friend!

Until Your Dawn our own eyes see,

Let us endure this night in Thee.

Let us endure this night in Thee.

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The title of this poem, “Lucernarium”, is essentially an old word for Vespers, the evening office when the lamps were lighted and the brothers gathered to pray and hear God’s Word. The inspiration for this poem is a wonderful lady who has just gone to be with the Lord. My dear sister Bertha was a great encouragement to me, and I wish I had been able to know her longer; she loved poetry – a favorite topic of conversation between us – but much more, she loved her Lord. I spoke to her a couple of days before she died, and she told me that she was looking forward to stepping out of the night and into God’s glorious morning. I praise the Lord for her faith and witness!

“I, Patrick…”

In my mind I could still hear the old priest reading from the Scriptures. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

I thought little of these words at the time. Like many of the others of my age, I was too caught up in the world as it is to give much thought to the world to come. I cared little for the things of God; indeed, I had forsaken Him. To me, His commandments were burdensome and unnecessary. His priests were no more than the spoilers of my sport, and just as I did not see the kindness and patience of God toward me, I did not see that the old man who spoke to his flock of God’s kingdom did so because he loved us.

And then, like so many others, I was taken.

I remember only a few details of when the Irish slavers first captured me. All of us had been laughing and enjoying a rare cloudless day when they came. There was no fighting them. The Roman Legions had left our island years before, and the only defenses that remained were the small militias we could muster; but the raiders struck so quickly that these were of little help. I was captured, then tied to others, then led to their ship, and then across the Irish Sea to what would be my home for six years.

How quickly my life became a walking parable! I, Patrick, who had been a slave to sin, was now a slave to men, forced to do work for which my only recompense was scant sustenance. I served my new master well; what else could I do? From my first day as a slave I tended my master’s sheep; six years I continued in forest and mountain, in all kinds of weather, caring for another man’s flock.

All the while I prayed. Sometimes I would pray a hundred prayers a day; sometimes I would pray all night, until, in the morning, both the ground about me and the cloak drawn across my shoulders were covered in frost. I couldn’t have imagined, wasting my life on lesser things back in Britannia, that here in the Irish wilderness, my freedom taken from me, I would find in Christ what it was to be truly free. It was good for me that I was so afflicted, for my affliction led me heavenward. The God I had forsaken had not forsaken me.

My Companion, my Lord, was always with me. I knew He was present, and often He brought to mind the things I had long forgotten, things my father or our priest had said about following Christ. Often, I would hear His Word in my mind, and it was more precious to me then than all the riches of Rome. I lamented only that I could not remember more! But then, God spoke a Word I had not heart before.

One night, as I lay sleeping, I heard a voice speaking. I saw no figure, no vision in the night. But, like Elijah, I heard a whisper. “Soon you will return to your own country.”

I woke. But the whisper did not cease playing and replaying in my mind. Could it be true? Was this You, O Lord? The Apostle told us to pray without ceasing. How ceaseless were my prayers the following week! I hardly breathed without uttering my sincere hope that what I had heard in my dream was indeed the voice of my God.

I was not to wait long for confirmation. A few days after this dream I had another. The same whisper spoke to me, “Your ship is waiting. Go.” When I rose from my sleep, I knew that I must obey. The journey would be difficult. The ship He had shown me was some two hundred miles from where I was. But, I trusted Him. I knew that He had loved me even before I knew Him, before I loved Him. He Who had not forsaken me, would not forsake me.

I left my master without his knowledge. The Lord was my Master now, and I knew I must obey God rather than man. But as I left in the twilight, the sheep stirred. Even as I made my way over the first hill and they could no longer be seen, I heard them bleating. A tear warmed my cold cheek. How affecting is the cry of the sheep who have no shepherd!

But where my Lord called, there I would go. I found my ship waiting where He had said, and though the captain refused me at first, my Captain softened his heart and they brought me aboard.

I returned home, no longer the man I was. But it would not be long before I dreamed yet another dream from the Lord. In my dream I heard the cry of sheep without a shepherd, a people dwelling in darkness and crying for the light. I knew them. I had seen them before, heard their voices. In Ireland.

Where my Lord called, there I would go.

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There have been many myths that have built up around the historical Patrick, Bishop of Ireland. However, the true story is one of a loving pastor who, being freed from slavery in Ireland, one day returned to the place of his slavery in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those enslaved to sin. We have only two works by Patrick – his Confession and his Epistle to Coroticus. The tale I related above is a dramatized account of his own testimony in his Confession. Of course, the Feast of St. Patrick occurs this month in the liturgical calendar, but St. Patrick’s Day, like many of our holidays, has become something completely different than what it was originally. This 17 March, perhaps we can instead set apart some time and meditate on God’s gracious working in and through the life of Patrick of Ireland.

The Storm: A Brief Meditation

The past year has been a difficult time for most of us; and the beginning of this year has already proven to be likewise tumultuous in a number of ways. This ongoing storm with all its accoutrements – isolation/loneliness, fear, restlessness, financial stress, etc. – is deeply impacting the mental health of a growing number of the population; particularly, a rise in depression and suicidal thoughts among younger people and children is alarming. A report from the CDC in the autumn of 2020 stated that, when polled, 1 in 4 young adults had said that they had suicidal thoughts within the past thirty days. Why is this? What is it about these storms in our lives that deprive us of all hope that things can ever be right again? Is it the length of the troubles that seem to go on and on, piling one on top of another that make us think that it would be better to have no life at all than to continue living like this? Is it the fear that things will never get better, a fear that the future will be just as dark as the present? Is it the loss of loved ones who seemingly made life worth living? I would wager that some or all of these things come into play. Each person’s feelings are their own, because they are the ones who are living through their situations and circumstances.

As a theologian, it would be easy at this point to give you a long list of reasons why it is wrong to commit suicide, and to argue those reasons out. I could tell you that your life is not your own – that you belong to God Who made you. I could remind you that you shall not murder – not even yourself! As true as these things are, I don’t think they’re going to keep you alive. I’ve been in dark places before. I haven’t been in your dark place; that is all your own. But what is not your own is the experience of the storms of life. I’ve traversed, by God’s grace, many storms, and will likely face many more before all the clouds part unto an everlasting day. What has kept me alive? What keeps me even now moving forward to do the work God has given me to do, to live the life He has given me to live? Despite all the storms of life, despite all my loneliness, all my sorrow, all those I’ve lost and yet love, all the fearsome flashes of lightning and crashing of thunder, I keep moving forward because Jesus is with me. When it has seemed I was all alone, He was there. When it seemed all was lost and nothing would ever be right again, He comforted me and bade me look to Him Who suffered as He did and was raised from the dead. He Who was resurrected and has ascended will one day come again and set all things right, and even in this storm, He is remaking me. When my faith is small, it yet clings to Him Who clings to me in love. As long as He is my strength, as long as He holds my hand and carries me, I can and will endure, and I will praise the One Who has the power to calm the storm or bring me through it.

Dear heart, I don’t know what you’re going through, how you have been and are being tossed by the storms in your own life, but I do know this – life is not something to throw away because the storm doesn’t seem to end. It’s hard, and there are likely many waves left to crest, but if you know my Jesus, then you know He has promised that He will never abandon you. He may calm your storm just over the next wave; He may not. He has all wisdom and knows what is necessary; you don’t. But though you may not know what He is doing through this particular storm, you can know that He loves you and cares for you; He hears you and will strengthen you; all is not lost because He is with you, and He will work even this to your everlasting good and His everlasting glory.

The storm will end. Either He will calm it, or He will bring you to the shores of glory, but the storm will end. Don’t throw yourself into the waves; throw yourself into the arms of the One Who loves you and gave Himself for you. Trust Him, and trust that He upholds you even now with His love-wounded hands.

I’m not a therapist; I’m a pastor. It may be that you need to see a therapist, and you should never be ashamed to seek psychological help, just like you would never be ashamed to go to the ER if you were having a heart attack. You may also consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you ever just need to talk to someone, my email is jlwaters@tsm.edu. Email me; I’ll give you my number, and we can talk (or we can even zoom; thanks to our youth, I know what that is now!). But don’t throw your life away; you’re not in this boat alone. Reach out to others and talk about what’s going on. More than this, reach out to the God Who loves you in prayer. Look to Jesus and live! Spend some time meditating on the following passages and slowly and thoughtfully pray the prayer I’ve included at the end.

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?'” Mark 4:35-41

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“‘Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.'” Psalm 91:14-16

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Prayer: O God of all comfort, as You have promised, so be with us in the midst of the storms of this life that come upon us according to Your perfect will, helping us the while to trust that You mean even this for our ultimate good and renewal. Give us the eyes of faith to see Christ with us in our suffering, and, united to Him, strengthen us that we may endure these tribulations. O Lord our Hope, help us to see beyond the passing and the transient to You Who are eternal; uphold us, we pray, by Your righteous right hand, and comfort us with the knowledge that You will never leave us or forsake us, and this because of the blood of Jesus Christ Your Son our Savior, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.