Prayer for Liverpool
Take a look at this tree. Just an ordinary tree, it seems, looking lovely in its fresh early-summer foliage. Closer inspection reveals that the trunk disappears into a vertical stone wall! Literally, it squeezes out, rather like toothpaste, from a small crack between blocks of stone, turns a right-angle upwards and then spreads out into what appears to be a healthy normal tree. It’s hard to believe that it could have grown like that, let alone survived the tough challenges of being cantilevered out of a cliff. The only explanation is that its roots, hidden from view, are deeply entwined with the stone blocks and penetrate far into the soil that is behind them. Through thick and thin, over the years, this tree has held fast and seems to be thriving. If you want to check it out for yourself, it is in St. James Gardens, the far side from the Cathedral.
It reminded me of one of those iconic David Attenborough programmes where he was swimming underwater in a giant kelp forest. These huge seaweeds have fronds which are tree-sized and wave around in the water. During heavy seas the forces on these giant plants are enormous and threaten to uproot the kelps and send them drifting helplessly into the open ocean and oblivion. Yet, almost unseen at the bottom of each kelp was an anchor to a huge rock - it is known as a ‘holdfast’. It is immensely strong; it needs to be.
One of the ‘big’ words of the Bible, for me, is the old-fashioned sounding ‘steadfast’. It has much the same meaning as ‘hold-fast’. St. Paul uses it frequently and he would probably have been very familiar with the holdfasts of seaweed in the Mediterrean. He certainly had plenty of experience of being at sea, and the need for a good anchorage for ships, to stop them drifting into danger. When writing to the Christians in Colossae (near Denizli in modern-day Turkey) he said this: “Continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:23). The recipients of his letter were under all sorts of pressures, spiritual, cultural, economic and social. There was the constant temptation to let go of what they had learned of Jesus and the good news that he brought in order to follow the path of least resistance. Or to feel discouraged and despondent.
As we slowly seem to be emerging from the most stringent phase of lockdown, and yet have no idea when life will return to anything like ‘normal’, it is also easy to lose heart and even be despairing. We surely need to hold fast to the roots of what we know is good, true, noble and enduring. The Christian faith encourages that. And many of the followers of Christ from previous generations can also inspire us too. Almost every day I have walked past the grave of Kitty Wilkinson in St. James Gardens, a woman who came to Liverpool as a child, having lost close family members in a shipwreck, lived in abject poverty and yet went on to make such a transforming difference to so many people in Liverpool. Quite rightly she is commemorated in St. George’s Hall and in the Lady Chapel at Liverpool Cathedral. Motivated by her strong faith, she held fast to her vision, despite many knock-backs. Surely someone who showed amazing steadfastness.
Holding fast doesn’t mean we are intransigent or unable to change. The tree grows and changes, but through its secure roots. In these uncertain times, we need to be ready to change, to learn, to become better acquainted with the challenges of our time. For example, for me, personally, I have been struck by how little that I do know about the issues facing black people and other people of colour in today’s societies, both in the UK and abroad. So that is something that I am wanting to address with some vigour. Add to that the background anxiety generally over how we build back from the Covid-19 crisis and an awareness of how different sectors of our society and economy are being impacted. Particularly for us as Christians, we do have that secure rootedness in Jesus to draw upon at these times of challenge.
I am reminded of a hymn that seems especially apt in this port-city of Liverpool; it could well have something fresh to say to us each today, as we seek to hold-fast to what is precious and eternal:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love.
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God