Friday, November 9, 2012

Disturb us, Lord

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I came across a disturbing prayer by a guy named Sir Francis Drake. To the English he is an explorer and a hero to the Spanish he is a pirate whom they call Francis the Dragon. He's known for being the second to accomplish the circumnavigation of the world. His father was Protestant minister who had 12 sons. He was apprenticed to a neighbor and learned the skills of a sea man. He is nighted by the queen of England. I can see the accomplishments but I also see a man who traded slaves, and witnessed the brutal massacre of 600 people on Rathlin Island after they had surrendered.  He is anti Catholic which explains much of his hatred of the Spanish. He write the prayer and I suppose much like king David he was a bloody man who writes a prayer that I find challenging.

I think of Wesley in the Princess Bride. They have made it through all the horrors of the fire swamp only to be surrounded by the six fingered man and his men.
Buttercup tries to work a deal with the six fingered man to have Wesley sent back to his ship if she will return to the Prince. I love Wesley's comment "We are men of action, lies do not become us." He knows he's not going back to his ship but on to torture and imprisonment. I guess I look at the prayer I found written by Sir Francis Drake and I see a man of action. I found the following said of him in a letter from Gonzalo Gonzalez del Castillo to King Philip II in 1592 "The people of quality dislike him for having risen so high from such a lowely family; the rest say he is the main cause of wars."

After he is knighted by the queen. He tried to claim the family arms of a supposed relative. The head of the family refuses to claim him as a kinsman and to bear the family arms. The queen in the end awards him his own new arms. I think it is interesting that the motto is Sic Parvis Magna, which means "Thus great things from small things (come)". There is a hand that comes from the clouds with the words  Auxilio Divino,  "With Divine Help" It seems that although he lived the life of a government sanctioned pirate, and slaver he looked to God and acknowledged that God had helped him. He was a man of action.

Clearly he is a remarkable person who accomplished some incredible things. But essentially the guy made his fame and fortune by steeling. Because he was successful and brought in revenue for the crown he is knighted and given a coat of arms that acknowledges that God helped him. History is written by the victors and I have to think at what cost to the lives and livelihoods of others did this man rise to fame and fortune. Clearly he was a quick thinker, and strategist, and able to command his men. He manages to sail around the world but the queen had to keep it a secret because by the time he returned England and Spain were friends.

Yet looking at his prayer I can see a man who did learn how to venture out to wider seas. Who did not settle for a complacent life of ease but did his part to fight what he saw as the enemy to his people and his beliefs.  I suppose at times he must have felt well pleased with himself. Its not everyone who gets knighted or goes from common folk to become sir with his own crest, or who manages to sail around the world. He is a man who dreamed of sailing waters that were yet uncharted by Englishmen.

I can only suppose that as a child his families decision to leave Devonshire and move to Kent because of religious persecution during the Prayer Book rebellion, must have instilled in him strong feelings against the Catholics. In our era of tolerance it is hard for me to understand the justifications of nations at war with one another or even between the Catholic and the Protestant church of the day.

I suppose that history will look back on our behavior and choices and scratch their heads at the things we are willing to fight so vehemently to defend. When we fight are we fighting to defend or pocketbook or to unleash the chains of oppression.  Its a mixed bag, with mixed motives, in every conflict there is two sides of the story. The best of us on our best of days falls woefully short of God's divine standard. We do fall in love with this life and loose sight of God's kingdom purposes. There are things that should disturb our complacency and move us to action. Thing we should stand up and speak out against. We should be disturbed that there are places in the world with out clean drinking water. We should be disturbed that slavery is still rampent in our day. We should be disturbed by that homeless guy on the corner flying a sign. We should be disturbed by the disparity in our world. That one handful of people can succeed and thrive while another stuggles for life.

I don't know that I have answers but I know there are things that disturb me and I am moved to pray for God's wisdom and direction. I want to be careful that I don't call might - right or attribute to God the acts of our greed and selfishness just because we have oppressed and stood on the backs of others and claimed success in the victory.  I think it is good for us to pray that the Lord would disturb us.

Prayer: 
Disturb us, Lord, when We are
too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
~Sir Francis Drake





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