Thoughts for Tuesday 12 January 2021

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36; Exodus 30:22-38; Acts 22:2-16

I’ve not managed to get any further with our readings today, I’m afraid, than a consideration of our psalm, of which we have both the beginning and the end. One notable verse in the middle is v.15, where we find an inscription that has been used by the RNLI for some of its medals: ‘Let not the deep swallow me up’. The psalm begins with, ‘Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck,’ and this reminds me of the following two stories:

1) The first is by Rev Charles Kingsley from his book, The Water-Babies (1862-3); in which we learn that eight or nine hundred years ago, the Mayor of Plymouth went out to the Mewstone at low spring-tide to catch lobsters. But when he put his hand in a crack in the rocks to do so, Mr Lobster caught the Mayor instead. Who, no matter how loud he shouted and bawled for help, the tide continued to flow, and still the lobster held on.

It’s a very funny story if you want to read the whole of it. But in order to get to the point, it’s not until the water is up to his waist that he begins to think over all the naughty things he had ever done, when he repents fully and promises to mend his life. And it’s not until the water is up to his chin, that a man-of-war’s boat comes round the Mewstone and sets him free. At the end, Kingsley (and this is typical of his humour) claims that the story has two chief advantages; the first is of being quite true, and the second is of having no moral whatsoever.

2) The second story, sadly, doesn’t have nearly so happy an ending. It’s that of the Wigtown martyrs, And, although it wasn’t until 1708 that Rev Robert Wodrow (parish minister of Eastwood Church of Scotland) was commissioned by the Church to document the ‘sufferings’ that had occurred during the Killing Time here in Scotland, when they first appeared in print, it does seem likely that in 1685, 63 year-old Margaret McLachlan and 18 year old Margaret Wilson were tied to stakes in the Solway Firth where they both drowned; and all for the reason that, while they were both prepared to say a prayer for King James II (and VIIth of England), neither of them were prepared to declare him to be head of the Church.

The romanticised version of this story is that after she had drowned, Margaret Wilson’s red hair floated in the water like a halo, and that just before she died she could be heard singing, not the 69th but the 25th psalm.

Let us pray: (using The Lifeboat Prayer)

Merciful Father, all things in heaven and earth are held within Your loving care, look with favour upon the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Protect and bless the crews of all our lifeboats, our lifeguards and all who risk their own safety to bring help to others. Guide all who work for the Institution as volunteers, supporters and staff that they may be faithful to the vision of its founders, so that it may always be seen as a beacon of hope and light to those who find themselves in peril on the seas. Through the same Jesus Christ, to whom with You and the Holy Spirit be honour and glory, now and forever, Amen.

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