Saints and Sinners – Tuesday 13th October

Edward the Confessor, king, 1066

Psalm 89.1-18

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever;
   with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
   your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
   I have sworn to my servant David:
“I will establish your descendants for ever,
   and build your throne for all generations.” ’

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
   your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
   Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
   great and awesome above all that are around him?
O Lord God of hosts,
   who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
   Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
   when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
   you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
   the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.
The north and the south—you created them;
   Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
You have a mighty arm;
   strong is your hand, high your right hand.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
   steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
   who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
they exult in your name all day long,
   and extol your righteousness.
For you are the glory of their strength;
   by your favour our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the Lord,
   our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Reflection

I did not know very much about King Edward except of course that the battle of Hastings in 1066 happened at the end of his reign and that he appears on the Bayeux tapestry. I will certainly be reading more!

He was the last of the Anglo-Saxon Kings, probably born in 1005, and the creation of the English nation in those years from 550, and the Norman Conquest in 1066, were formative events. His life is quite fascinating and extraordinary. The fact that he managed to survive his turbulent childhood is quite something, and must have affected his life. England was filled with Viking Invasions and Edward’s father king Ethelred was defeated by Sweyn in 1013 and his mother fled to Normandy with her sons.

He lived in exile for 25 years, and his language was French not English. His half-brother was killed, and then his own brother, with whom he spent his young life, was also terribly killed. His life was characterised by factional intrigue, invasion, conquest and rebellion and it would continue.

He personally suffered dramatic reversals in fortune. There were times of personal triumph and humiliation. His years in exile were as long as his time as King of England, and he had a long reign!

It appears Edward was known for his faith and piety, perhaps learning to rely on his God at an early age? Our psalm speaks of steadfast love of the Lord, of his shield, his love and his faithfulness. In such turmoil, violence, uncertainty in life it is God to whom we can all turn, in his word finding all these things.

It is said King Edward would continue to daily commune with God, and in his years as King his faith was never questioned. A confessor is a saint who suffers for his faith but is one step short of martyrdom. Edward suffered but it seems he used his power as king for good. Some say he was weak, but even though he had enemies, his reign was not one of war but of peace throughout the nation.

Edward had also spread royal mints all over the country to produce standard coinage. This was a first for England. He opposed the replacement of the Archbishop of Canterbury with one of Goodwin’s relatives in 1051 whom who knew would bring trouble.

When Goodwin was accused of plotting to kill the king a civil war nearly broke out, Edward managed to gain the support of Goodwin’s men and war was averted. Edward’s death on January 5 1066, without an heir, began the sequence of events that led to the Norman Conquest probably something he would never have wanted.

The place he would be buried was in Westminster Abbey, the church he had built because he was unable to fulfil his promise to God to go on pilgramge to Rome – this because he could not leave his subjects. The Pope requested he build a new church instead, to release him from his vow: it would become a national treasure and focus of national devotion.

It became a focal point which made him for a time the patron saint of the English monarchy and the place where even kings and Queens would come to his shrine. Edward the Confessor is the only saint whose body is still in its shrine, and for many centuries that followed, many sick people came to kneel and ask for God’s healing.

King Edward the Confessor seems very human in his life: he suffered, he made mistakes, always depending on his Lord and his God who upheld him in all things. He brought in his lifetime peace to England, he shared his wealth, and he stood up for justice when he could see something was wrong.

Sovereign God,
Who set your servant Edward
upon the throne of an earthly kingdom
and inspired him with zeal
for the kingdom of heaven:
grant that we may so confess the faith of Christ
by word and deed,
that we may, with all your saints,
inherit your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tina Nicholson
Associate Hub Leader
(Central Hub)