Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out. —Hugh Latimer, to his friend Nicholas Ridley, as they were being burned at the stake for their Christian beliefs (1555).
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
PRAYER FOCUS: Learning Scripture
This week’s Lectionary Prayer was written in the mid-16th century by a man named Thomas. It is a prayer that has stood the test of time for more than four centuries. In 1556, five months after the deaths of Latimer and Ridley, Thomas was also burned at the stake. Before he died he left us a five-point prayer that he believed would guide those who followed him.
Hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures.
Most of us first hear the Word spoken by another person—a parent or family member, a priest or a preacher, possibly a teacher or a friend. Someone who loves us. The Word is first heard in community, in relation to another person or a group of people. So begin most journeys of faith.
Reading the Bible deepens our understanding. We begin to discover Who God is, to embrace His amazing love, to explore the solid reasons we can hope and trust in Him. When we read the Bible, we are writing into our minds something Holy and Eternal and Faithful and True.
In the 1500s, the word “mark” meant to pay attention. Today, in context, we would read “mark” as an exhortation to write in or on something. If you are uncomfortable “marking up” your Bible, get another one that you’ll be comfortable making notes in. Think of marks as signposts you leave for yourself along your journey of growth and discipleship.
Learning often begins with memorization. Memorizing Scriptures lays an important foundation for the structure of faith, but it is more important to grow in your understanding of what the scriptures mean. “Keep my words and store up my commands within you…and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov. 7:1-3). Write God’s Word on your heart.
As humans, we become what we consume, both in the physical and the spiritual sense. During digestion, our bodies break down food and absorb it in order to sustain and to build our own living tissues. If we don’t eat, we will starve. Likewise with Scripture, we read it, meditate on it, and absorb it so that it becomes part of our own living spirits. God’s Word is then reflected in our beliefs and our choices. If we don’t feed our spirits, we will wither.
The “Thomas” who wrote this week’s Prayer was a leader of the English Reformation during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. His full name was Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1532 to 1534. Cranmer authored The Book of Common Prayer, still in use today, and from which this week’s prayer is taken. During the political and sectarian turmoil that followed the royal succession of Mary I (daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon) Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy. He was sentenced to death along with fellow Anglican Reformists Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.
Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake in Oxford, in October 1555. Archbishop Cranmer was executed in the same manner, at the same spot, five months later. A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the center of Broad Street outside the front of Balliol College still marks the site.
In losing their lives, the faith and courage of Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley bore the testimony Jesus called his Disciples to. They held fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
In our Lectionary Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus is forewarning the Disciples of what is to come. He tells them that other people will hate them, that:
“They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21: 12-15).
It’s Monday Morning. We live in a world increasingly hostile to our faith. This week, Christian, you will be bombarded by words and attitudes that contradict what the Bible assures you is true. Do your homework. Do your heart-work. Hold fast the blessed hope.
TMP Note: Please be in prayer for the people of the Philippines impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. Pray for their safety and provision, for rescue and resources. Pray for the Church in the devastated areas, and for our brothers and sisters in the Faith mobilizing relief even now.