We enjoyed worship services during our two months in England. One of the most memorable was at Tewkesbury Abbey. Full name was the Abbey Church of St. Mary the Virgin. A former Benedictine Abbey, with one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the whole country.
Theoc, a missionary from Northumbria, first brought the Gospel to this part of England, the Midlands. This was in the 7th century AD where he established a tiny place of worship in a gravel pit at the confluence of the Severn and Avon Rivers. The first monastery was built in 715AD with the Abbey begun in 1102AD. Still standing. Still inspiring awe and wonder to our Lord Jesus Christ.
This day we witnessed a high Anglican service involving lots of pomp and circumstance. The mixed choir of boys and girls along with adults. Organist at the console of the 17th century Milton organ( John Milton who wrote ‘Paradise Lost’).
But it was the censer that caught my attention. Incense was burning in a small metal container, swung on a chain, with smoke rising higher and higher with each swing of the censer-holder. One of the four chains had a hasp that would open and close the vessel allowing incense to escape in a great puff of smoke. All that smoke!
We could hardly see the altar. After worship, we spoke with the censer-holder. He mentioned that the next Sunday there would be three of them swinging censers and that no one would see anything at all! He thought that would be thrilling. We didn’t return!
The Book of Revelation is always quite the experience. Seals opening…trumpets blaring…bowls pouring out wrath and judgement. In their midst comes the opening 5 verses of chapter 8. Jesus, the Lamb, opens that 7th seal. Then silence in heaven for an hour and a half. Utter silence. Why?
Bible scholars differ like Heinz 57 varieties. I’m going to hang my hat on one interpretation. This is what I think. During this period of silence, angels carry censers like the one we saw at Tewkesbury Abbey. Incense is rising to the throne of God. That sweet smell is everywhere, clouds of smoke filling the air. We learn that the incense is mixed with the prayers of God’s people. Prayers rise to God’s attention. He calls for silence. Quiet. He’s hearing our prayers. Yours and mine.
They are so precious to Him that He broaches no interruption at all. No disturbance. Quiet. He only wants to hear our prayers. Could it be that our prayers are so precious to Almighty God?
And could it be that prayer will be more evident in our lives knowing how much they mean to Him? Could it be?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for showing us once again how important we are to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.