Welcome to Brooklands Digital Church for this New Year Covenant Service.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 62 and Matthew 7:24-28.
The service starts with a 15 minute countdown, where we share some news and announcements. Please use the scroll bar to skip straight through to the service/message if watching the recording.
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It was several years ago that I first mentioned the poem partially quoted by King George VI on his Christmas Day radio broadcast in 1939. World War 2 had begun a few months earlier and things looked rather bleak. We are now at another ‘Gate of the Year’, and it seemed prudent to me to consider how God’s promises work with those who have Hope and Faith in the Lord God.
When I investigated the poem partially quoted by the father of our present sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, it proved to be written by someone completely unknown to all but a few, and I discovered the following two scriptural gems of truth which bear an uncanny resemblance to life in today’s world. The first is…
1) Humble origins
It is a remarkable observation found in many great sources of strength in the Bible. Moses, Samuel, David, Nehemiah, Peter, John and even Jesus Himself!
The poet’s name was Minnie Louise Haskins, and she was born in the village of Oldland, six miles east of Bristol. She grew up in the neighbouring village of Warmley. Her father, Joseph, was a grocer, and her mother was called Louisa Bridges. Later, her father acquired a pottery business making drainpipes. She taught Sunday School for many years in a Congregationalist church. She went on to study informally at University College, Bristol while undertaking voluntary work for her local church. By 1903, she was working in Lambeth, London, for the Springfield Hall Wesleyan Methodist Mission. In 1907, she departed for Madras, India with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society.
In 1912, Minnie Haskins published a small volume of poetry entitled, The Desert, which included the poem “God Knows”, originally written in 1908, to which she added the now-famous preamble to create the poem that today is commonly known as ‘The Gate of the Year’! There is no link between this poem by Minnie Haskins and Psalm 62 written by King David save the sense of trust you have in the opening words of both… In Psalm 62, David writes,
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1–2)
Here is the beginning of the poem written by Minnie Haskins, and quoted by King George VI on his Christmas Address to the nation in 1939… And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”. And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
I couldn’t help but think of similarity between this last stanza from her poem, and Psalm 62…
‘Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.’
Then I read the opening lines of Ps 62: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1–2)
Both writers come from ‘humble’ origins; for David was a shepherd boy when God was preparing him for his great exploits of later years. And Minnie Haskins, a mere Sunday School teacher and Missionary to India. Yet something she had written and subsequently paid little attention to, became significant words from a King in time of national tribulation! TWO WORDS ring out still, following nine months of a global pandemic. The words succinctly put are these…
2. God Knows!
Friends you need to hear these words – they are true for you, and each of us, today. God knows what is going on. He knows ALL that is happening everywhere. Did anything take you by surprise this past year? The Lord God knew it all! He is the Alpha and the Omega. He knows the beginning from the end…
In a later Psalm, 139, King David had been considering God’s thoughts and Presence and Plans, and he concludes:
‘“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:6)
David ends the Psalm, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.’ Friends, God knows about ALL your thoughts and concerns! God Knows!
So then, at the beginning of 2021, to quote this remarkable poem, ‘put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
These words became the high point of the King’s Address to our nation when all seemed hopeless. They are not ‘inspired words’ as the Bible is ‘God Breathed’; but, inspiring to our nation they were. And they continue to inspire too.
I trust everything we have done and said this morning has inspired you. The Renewal of our Covenant with God Almighty, taken from the old Wesleyan New Year Tradition of re-affirming our promises to God together publicly. The Breaking of bread together, which we shall do in a moment. And the declaration of the Gospel of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!
Their contexts speak volumes to us! God knows it is true that from Humble Origins, inspiring words and exploits have risen to Help, Save, Redeem, and offer Hope for each year we live.
Here was an unlikely King, for he never did want his brother Edward VIII to abdicate and leave him as heir to the Throne.
Here was an unlikely poem from an unlikely source to give a nation Hope against what seemed an all powerful, unbeatable enemy.
It was a mere nine-minute address to the nation. He stated: “it is the tragedy of this time that there are powerful countries whose whole direction and policy are based on aggression and the suppression of all that we hold dear for mankind.” He addressed the soldiers, sailors and airmen to remain strong and undaunted!
Then came humble words from an unknown writer of a poem. Words that spoke of faith in the One who knows all…
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
King George VI concluded his speech with this blessing: “May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.” To which I add, may our hand be in His.