February’s pause for thought…
Here’s a fun fact for you – well I think it’s quite fun anyway!
If you go to the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England’s old prayer book that’s still used in many churches, and find Psalm 46, it’s said you’ll find something very strange.
Count 46 words in from the beginning and you find the word ‘shake’; count 46 words in from the end (and this is Psalm 46, remember so that number if significant) and you find the word ‘spear.’ Put them together and of course you get the word, the name, ‘Shakespear’.
Some people say that shows that William Shakespeare had a hand in putting the Psalms into the language of his day, and that this strange little fact is the way Britain’s most famous poet and playwright leaves his ‘calling card’ embedded in the text, just waiting for someone to stumble over it.
It’s true that Shakespeare was writing about the same time the Book of Common Prayer was being developed, but personally I think it’s all just a strange coincidence. And I’m not sure, if you count them, ‘spear’ is exactly 46 words from the end anyway. Sorry to burst that bubble – but do have a look for yourselves.
For all that, I think Psalm 46 has something much more important to tell us. It reads like it was a written at a time of real turbulence. It talks about the earth shaking, the waters of the sea roaring and foaming, and the mountains trembling with tumult. It all sounds rather like an earthquake and a tsunami to me.
We’ve not been through an earthquake this last year – but doesn’t it feel like the whole earth has been shaken – and our lives with it? When earthquakes come, some things remain standing, others fall. We don’t really know what our new landscape will look like, post-pandemic. What will still be standing?
But this Psalm does tells us of one thing that will endure and survive:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
There is a refuge that will endure. There is always somewhere – someone – in whom we can always take refuge and be safe, no matter how severe the shaking of this life might be.
This post will also appear in the Truro Voice this month.