Thursday, September 20, 2012

Trusting when Anxious

Thursday, September 30, 2012 -- -- Week of Proper 19
John Coleridge Patteson and his Companions, Bishop of Melanesia, Martyrs, 1871
[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)
Psalms [70], 71 (morning)       74 (evening)
Job 28:1-28
Acts 16:25-40
John 12:27-36a

Our calendar today honors Bishop John Coleridge Patteson and his Companions.  Patteson was a scholar at Oxford and had a particular gift for languages.  He accepted the call from Bishop George Augustus Selwyn to be ordained and to go to serve the Islanders of the South Pacific.  He became the first Bishop of Melanesia, consecrated in 1861.  His strategy for serving was to establish schools to train indigenous people, some of whom might become ordained in order to share the faith among their people in a culturally appropriate way.  It was said that Patteson learned to speak some 23 languages of the Melanesian people. 

I think there is some wisdom in this entry from his diary written as he thought about starting his work:

I feel the sense of responsibility deepening on me.  I must go out to work without Selwyn, and very anxious I am sometimes, and almost oppressed by it.  But strength will come, and it is not one's own work, which is a comfort; and if I fail -- which is very likely -- God will place some other man in my position, and the work will go on, whether in my hands or not, and that is the real point.

Indeed I do wonder that I am as calm as I am.  When I look at the map, the countless islands overwhelm me.  Where to begin?  How to decide on the best method of teaching?  I must try to be patient, and be content with very small beginnings, and endings too, perhaps.

Patteson's words seem to speak to all of us who get overwhelmed with responsibilities.  When we look at the size of our responsibilities, it can make us anxious and almost oppressed.  It is good to trust that strength will come; "and it is not one's own work."  There are times, when I've felt out of my depth, that I've said to God almost desperately, "If you want this done, you are going to have to find a way."  And then, somehow, things usually work out.  When I am less anxious, things go better.  I go better.  There is something about trusting God that seems to open us to new energy and possibilities.  We still see the "countless islands," but there is a calmness within.

Patteson's work was compromised by the increasing presence of European slave-traders who came in their ships and stole islanders away.  On September 20, 1871 Patteson and four companions were attacked by islanders as he stepped ashore.  It was an act of vengeance for five navtive men who had been killed by the slave-traders.

Bishop Selwyn returned to the islands to initiate a process of reconciliation, and in Bishop Patteson's honor and memory, the work of teaching and of spreading good news continued.  His murder became the seed of the Melanesian Church.

I think of the recent murder of our Libyan ambassador Christopher Stevens, a man of integrity and compassion for the Libyan people.  I hope American leaders and our Moslem neighbors can create vehicles of reconciliation to bring about understanding and care that will sow the seed of peace and understanding rather than the vicious circle of violence and retaliation.  May others pick up his work and help God's cause of peace and reconciliation.  May we be "content with very small beginnings, and endings too, perhaps."


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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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