Dear People of St. David’s,
This week I joined our Women’s Bible Study that meets on Wednesday mornings. Under the leadership of The Rev. Emily Zimbrick-Rogers, the group decided to study the Psalms. By the time that Emily left for her new ministry, and I joined the group, they had gotten to Psalms 30-35. This week, I had the blessing of leading a conversation about one of my favorites, Psalm 34.
Here is why it’s a favorite:
That link will take you to a couple of minutes of the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II. In a haunting round, led by an impossibly high soprano, Psalm 34:8 is sung to a tune written by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Ralph is a twentieth century composer whose melodies flow throughout our music here at St. David’s and in churches all over the world.
I was surprised to read that Vaughan Williams composed this beautiful little piece for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1954, not too long before his death. I cannot help but think of a very young woman (Elizabeth was 25 when she became Queen), taking this verse as her aspiration—and then including it in the list of music she wanted played at her funeral. For her whole adulthood, Elizabeth proclaimed the goodness of God, and the possibility of blessing for everyone who uses their everyday senses to perceive God’s grace.
When I was a child in Confirmation class, I was taught that God’s grace equals God’s strength. I can remember Father Carroll telling us to write it just that way in our notes. Then on Sunday morning, often enough for me to remember it, the choir would sing Vaughan William’s introit. I can still hear the opening notes, sung by Mrs. Carroll, our rector’s wife. O taste and see!
This week, in the church calendar, we celebrate a trio of days: All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day (Commemoration of All Faithful Departed). Halloween, we make fun of all that is evil and malevolent in the world by dressing up as ghoulies and ghosts and long-legged beasties—because as The New Revised Standard Version of Psalm 34 has it: “Taste and see that the LORD is good; Happy are those who take refuge in him.” God is good, and we can be happy because God keeps us safe!
On All Saints’ Day (November 1, which will be celebrated in church this Sunday), we remember the saints—all the people who have been baptized into the life of Christ. That means us, too! We are the saints of God, studying the Bible on Wednesday mornings, or being called to serve as priest-in-charge of a congregation in Philadelphia, or singing in the church choir.
On All Souls’ Day, we remember everyone who has gone before us into the glory of God. This year, I am thinking of Queen Elizabeth, a woman who tasted, saw, and proclaimed God’s goodness throughout her long life. And Ralph Vaughan Williams who wrote tunes, so that I can taste and see and hear God’s goodness. And Father Jim Carroll who taught me that God’s grace is how God shows strength.
O taste and see and hear and experience the grace of God in the love of God’s people!
The Rev. Nancy Webb Stroud