Keeping Watch Together

Screen grab from nightly Compline feed on ZOOM

For the past two weeks I have been leading Compline at 8 pm every evening via zoom. We get quite a number of participants as we all look for community, prayer and hope in this time. Compline has beautiful prayers to help us do just that. My favorite is:

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch or weep this night and give your angels charge of those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

I have said that prayer for many years, but somehow it seems written for this time of pandemic. As do the psalms for Compline, such as this one: “Many are saying, ‘Oh that we might see better times! Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.”

Here are a few other prayers and meditations I have use these past two weeks in the midst of Compline. My friend and bishop classmate, Rob Wright, says this:

“Music is not cancelled.

Prayer is not cancelled.

Rest is not cancelled.

Compassion is not cancelled.

Hope is not cancelled.

Study is not cancelled.

Memories are not cancelled.

Phone calls are not cancelled.

Faith is not cancelled.

Planning is not cancelled.

Dreaming is not cancelled.

Laughing is not cancelled.

Imagination is not cancelled.

God is not cancelled.”

The Rt. Rev. Robert Wright

On another night I quoted this from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968:
“God, we thank you for the inspiration of Jesus. Grant that we will love you with all our hearts, minds and souls, and love our neighbor as ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask you, God in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawn.”

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We normally associate Dr. King with moments of glory on spiritual mountaintops and great dreams. But the time he felt the Divine Presence most deeply was at a time of confusion and despair. One night when he was home alone, he answered the phone. The caller told him unless he ceased his activity for civil rights, he would kill him and all his family.” Martin got off the phone and rested his head on the kitchen table. There he confessed his fear to God. And he asked God for a way out of this work so he would not look like a coward. While Martin sat there in fear, he felt the Divine Presence in the room. An heard a voice saying to him : “Martin, have courage. Stand up for justice. I am with you always.”

In this time of fear and confusion, may we feel that same Divine Presence.

We all know the hymn “Now Thank We All our God.” But do we know the context? The author is Martin Rinckart, a Lutheran pastor who was serving in the walled city of Eilenburgh in Saxony, Germany during the plague of 1637. It was very overcrowded with refugees from the 30 Year War. In the plague, all the clergy died except Rinckart. In that one year, he did over 4,000 funerals, including that of his wife. And yet, in the midst of all that devastation, he wrote these words:


“Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

Martin Rinckart

When our children were little and all upset about something, we would tell them to stop and think of five things they are grateful for. (Sometimes our Caragh would react by saying “I hate five fings.” Perhaps in the spirit of Rinckart, we can stop and thank God for “five things.” And may one of those be the doctors, nurses, hospital workers and first responders who are saving lives at the risk of their own.

St. Paul wrote:

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends..For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; 12-12

In a time when we have been sheltering at home for many days, perhaps alone, but perhaps with one or many more people, it might be good to remember the wisdom of Saint Paul. When stress builds, remember Love is patient and kind. It does not insist on its own way. It bears all things. Endures all things. Love never ends.

And in these confusing, anxious times, when we see dimly in a mirror, when we know so little of what might come, can we live in faith and hope and love? Knowing the greatest of these is love.

Our Diocese will keep offering compline via zoom every night as long as this pandemic continues. God bless you all.

In Christ,
+Doug

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Episcopal WMA is inviting you to pray Compline with Bishop Fisher

Time: Mar 28, 2020 08:00 PM Eastern Time

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