Daily Devotion 22 April 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Ephesians 2:4-7 ‘Saved by Grace’

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

‘Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me’
Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778)
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy riven side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure,
cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Not the labours of my hands
can fulfil thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears for ever flow,
all for sin could not atone:
thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Saviour, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar through tracts unknown,
see thee on thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Rock of Ages is one of our best-known hymns. It was a favourite of Albert, the Prince Consort, who repeated portions of it as he lay dying in December 1861. Its writer, Augustus Montague Toplady, was born in Farnham and as a curate was sent to the Mendips in Somerset. Tradition has it that he was inspired to write this hymn whilst sheltering from a thunderstorm in a deep recess in a huge crag at Burrington Coombe (see photo right) – and though the truth of the tale is very much open to question, you can see “Rock of Ages” carved into the stone and also marked on some maps.

Perhaps the reason why it has remained so popular is the emphasis it places upon God’s grace – in the third verse, the author describes our faith in terms of clinging to the crucified Christ, coming to him, looking to him, fleeing to him – because nothing else is needed. When I entered theological college to train for the ministry, the first exercise I was given was to write a short 500-word essay on one word that summed up ‘The Root of my Faith’. Students chose words like ‘faith’, ‘love’, ‘prayer’, ‘hope’ and so on. Mine was ‘grace’, and I still haven’t changed my mind all these years later.

In these weeks after Easter, it is good to be reminded that our faith depends solely upon God’s love for us. While the wording of ‘Rock of Ages’ may seem rather old-fashioned today, the essential truths it conveys still hold good, and should take away any anxiety we may have about achieving salvation by our own efforts.

Prayer:

Gracious God,
there is no limit to the lengths you have gone in your love for each one of us.
Help us to realise that in our crucified and risen Christ,
you have done everything that is necessary for our salvation,
and that all we need to do is to accept your gift of grace
and trust in your unfailing love. Amen.

Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
Hymn no longer in copyright.
Image freely available online.

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All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356