Welcome to this new mini series, which you will hopefully find both comforting and challenging. The whole series is set to some really lovely music. The first piece features an improvised version of the well-known hymn Immortal, Invisible, God only wise, and the second a piece by Tchaikowsky called ‘In the Church.’
His constancy outweighs my fickleness. A psalm of Robert the servant of the LORD, a prayer for a heart that is single-minded and free from deceit. To the tune, St Denio, which is based on ‘Can mlynedd i nawr’ (‘A Hundred Years from Now’) and familiar to us in the hymn, ‘Immortal, invisible God only wise.’
Your constancy outweighs my fickleness Part 1
A psalm of Robert the servant of the LORD, a prayer for a heart that is single-minded and free from deceit. To the tune, St Denio, which is based on ‘Can mlynedd i nawr’ (‘A Hundred Years from Now’) and familiar to us in the hymn, ‘Immortal, invisible God only wise.’
A psalm of Robert the servant of the LORD, a prayer for a heart that is single-minded and free from deceit. To an improvisation on the music of ‘In Church’ by Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Musicians: Christiane von Albrecht and Jo Garcia
Transcript of the Words of Part One
Even many of those who instinctively enjoy and welcome change have found the upheavals and restrictions of the last few plague and climate-driven emergencies hard to endure in recent years. Not only does the Lord see the huge difficulties these events have engendered, but there is also the matter of people’s fickleness and unreasonableness to reckon with – hearts – including our own.
The word ‘fickle’ has an interesting history. In Old English word (f i c k o l) it meant not only ‘frequently changing our mind,’ and being ‘impulsive and unreliable,’ it also implied deliberate deceitfulness.
The Lord loves it when we keep the eyes of our heart fixed on Him, but He hates it when people deliberately set out to misrepresent facts and to conceal truth.
It is more important than ever to remind ourselves and one another of the constancy of God. In this prayerful reflection, therefore, we will be pondering two main themes: the steadfast faithfulness of God, and our own tendency to be changeable.
Paul wrote that it was his goal that all God’s people might be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that we might have the full riches of complete understanding, and know the mystery of God, namely, Christ. (Col. 2:2). So we pray with the psalmist, ‘Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.’ (Ps. 84:11 ESV) What a powerful phrase that is!
What a powerful phrase that is, so that all our concerns and actions spring from a heart that is at one, both with the Lord and within itself. There is a lot of talk today about being ‘true to ourselves’ and ‘following our hearts.’ But the Lord told Jeremiah that “the heart is deceitful above all things,” (Jeremiah 17:9), and even those of us who truly desire to love and serve the Lord can fail to notice the deceitfulness in our own way of thinking, and others things for which we need to repent. It is as if we are operating under artificial arc lights of our own making, as opposed to examining our hearts in the true light of God.
Jesus, You want us know the truth of what You find in our hearts, and we do well to recall how direct and specific You were in the heartfelt letters of warning You send to Your beloved Churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
The writer to Hebrews urges us to avoid having our heart choked and hardened by ‘sin’s deceitfulness:’ the very things that quench the abundant life of Jesus and the flow of His Spirit (Heb. 3:13; cf Mark 4:19)
May the Lord be with us now as we seek to move away and beyond the things that make for unhappiness and which perpetuate an inner brittleness rather than a full-on trusting relationship with Him. May we be eager for all trace and shadow of deceitfulness to be driven out when He chooses to inspect our hearts, and to respond to His constancy by seeking to be constant and whole hearted in all that we do!
Thank You, Lord, that Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. What a joy it is to know that although Heaven and Earth will pass away, Your words will never pass away. (John 1:2; Ps: 119:89; Matt: 24:35).
You are the immortal invisible God only wise. You are blessed and glorious, Almighty and victorious. You are the Ancient of Days in whom there is no shadow of change. (Dan. 7:13; Neh. 9:5; James 1:17)
(Music: Welsh hymn melody, St. Denio. With many thanks to James Horsfall (piano), Francis Cummings (violin), Cathie Muncy (viola), Natalie Halliday (cello), Jane Horsfall (Celtic harp), Mike Halliday (Clarinet)]
Transcript of the Words of Part Two
You are trustworthy, tried and true;
While I, as changeable as a weathervane,
am only too capable of saying one thing but meaning and doing quite another,
often blowing needlessly hot or needlingly cold.
Lord of quite remarkable forbearance,
Let me yield no place to thoughts and attitudes,
or utter words that should find no welcome in my heart.
Lord, you know only too well the many ways in which I fail You;
The times I fret and worry, and fail to trust You.
The times I speak ill of others, neither seeing Your call on their lives,
nor heeding Your warning that if I bite and devour others, I risk being destroyed in turn by them. (Gal. 5:15)
The times I lash out, shrill and vindictive,
my sensitivities bristling like so many quills,
or, preferring to sulk,
allowing bitter roots of resentment to inject its poison into my heart.
Since my conscience and my actions lie exposed before You Lord; how dare I set out to deceive?
For the sake of Your glory, and for love of those with whom I have to deal, let my conscience be swift to welcome Your correction.
Oh God, will You help me to cleanse my hands and purify my heart from these sins that lie crouching at the door? (Jas. 4:8, Gen. 4:7)
Teach me to see off bears and wolves, and to wrestle with other wild beasts – but also to recognise the seductive murmur of the siren serpent that led Demas to fall in love with the world and to turn away from serving You, and Judas to pin his hopes on agendas that were never Yours.
There are many fierce beasts, Lord, and many people have fallen prey; many whose hearts have exchanged truth for a lie and fickle flattery that embraces dark and shifting shadows.
You warned us that in the last days, deceitfulness would arise in many forms – not least when good people take on board beliefs that Heaven cannot own. Yet You choose to allow the wheat and the tares to grow together, and You ask that we remain true to our calling and constant in Your constancy. Fickleness and deception soon harden into a shameful constancy that is deeply resistant to the love notes and warnings that You send.
Spare me from the fate of Lot’s wife, casting her gaze backwards when You are summoning me upward and onward! Let my heart not crystallise in regret like ‘a pillar of salt standing as a monument to my unbelief! (Wisdom 10:7)
Oh God, will You set free many hearts that flit and flutter, and are so easily misled? Draw us instead to a place of constancy in You.
Transcript of the words for Part 3
I know my fickle nature, Lord,
and fear the damage it can do –
not least the dishonour I bring Your name
when I claim You as my Lord and God but fail to reflect Your likeness.
My body will only last so long, but my soul will remain forever.
Forgive the many times when my patience grows threadbare thin, and my faith begins to wilt.
Grant rather that I learn to possess my soul with patience and stand firm. (Luke 21:19)
Come, heal deluded deceitful hearts for which, in worldly terms, there is no cure.
Attend to that sour-edged brittleness that so often surrounds and accompanies fickle hearts,
and which finds new ways to impose its tyrannical constraints on others.
Lift the deadweight of fickleness from their hearts I pray,
and set free any who I have unwittingly hurt and imposed upon.
Then make of my heart a shining beacon of light,
brim-filled with the treasures of eternity, as I pray in the words of John Donne.
‘Batter my heart, Three-Person’d God, for You
as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
that we may rise and stand.’
For though my capricious ways cry out against me,
You are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy,
and whose constancy far outweighs my fickle ways.
Look not upon my failure to reform,
but upon Your own steadfast faithfulness and purpose;
for Your faithfulness reaches to the heavens,
and extends into the furthermost corners of Your still expanding universe.
Brittle times are revealing times, so build true to plumb in me, Oh Great Refiner.
Heed not my foolish fickle words but honour each true intention to honour You,
and implant such resilience in my heart that it can ride out the tremors
when fierce oppressions shake the very ground of my being.
For have You not said: ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen and uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Is. 41:10)
Enfold me in Your love and strengthen my knees to move again with renewed vigour.
I give You now all the fumbles that make my heart stumble,
And most especially the following issues that I name before You now . . .
I give these things to You, Lord God, and ask You to shine Your light upon them and root them out so that I can grow upright toward You, setting my will afresh to seek Your face.
The music was arranged for us by Geth Griffiths and played by Shirley Richards and Helen Rees (violins), Chian Lewis-Lim and Cathie Muncey (violas), Corinne Frost, Jo Garcia, Anna Frazer (cellos), Geth Griffiths (double bass), Amy Roberts (oboe), Fontane Liang (harp), Beth Davies (bassoon) and Phil Steventon (percussion).