‘Disturb us, Lord …’

Sir Francis Drake’s prayer

This great conqueror during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth was evidently a God-fearing man who, despite his naval exploits, understood the constant temptation of the believer’s heart to settle short of his destined spiritual achievements. So he prayed:

‘Disturb us, Lord, when,
having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity,
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas
where storms will show your mastery,
where losing sight of the land we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes and
to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
This we ask in the Name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. Amen.’

The purpose of Passover

The main reason for launching each new year with a Passover feast was to help Israel to reflect on who they were – a people of destiny:

  • a redeemed people with historic roots

the annual celebration of this household meal of roast lamb and bitter herbs brought vividly to mind their historic deliverance from slavery, and their birth as a nation. Christian communion with bread and wine (replacing the roast lamb and bitter herbs) is our regular celebration of the redemptive work of Christ and the subsequent formation of his church. ‘This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations … you shall keep it as a feast’ (Exodus 12:14).

  • a pilgrim people with a glorious future

However, we must not overlook the Lord’s other Passover purpose expressly announced to his people at the inauguration of the festival: ‘In this manner you shall eat it:’ not in slippers and pyjamas but ‘with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover’ (Exodus 12:11).

It was also an annual reminder that, even when settled in ‘the promised land’, Israel was still a pilgrim people. For instance, after the conquest of Canaan, as he was about to allot them their various territories, we are told: ‘Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him: “… there remains yet very much land to possess”’ (Joshua 13:1). And: ‘After the death of Joshua … the people of Benjamin … Manasseh … Ephraim … Zebulun … Asher … Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants’ from many areas of their allotted inheritance (Judges 1:1, 21, 27-31).

When we break bread together, let’s remind each other that, whatever our achievements, ‘here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city to come’ (Hebrews 13:14). And Drake’s ‘Disturb us, Lord’ would be quite an appropriate intercession at any eucharist meal!

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