A Devotion for Thursday, April 2, 2020
Psalm 31:9-16 (NRSV)
9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
Held by God
“My strength fails … my bones waste away … I have become like a broken vessel.”
We’re not told why the psalmist feels this way, but the voice rings with unrestrained passion and soul-searing grief. My friend Marta might claim this psalm as hers. Already well-weathered by life, she beat breast cancer last year. Yet “beat” is an overstatement: she lost both breasts and her job along the way. Then this year she was diagnosed with kidney disease. I can’t imagine how she feels, but perhaps the string of cries in this psalm come close. Marta’s past – including years as a youth minister – seem to count for nothing. Her future is framed by pain and uncertainty.
The psalm’s grace is two-fold. it shows the psalmist’s confidence that God is big enough to hear all our pain and anguish. We can pray, holding nothing back. Second, even in this place of uncensored anguish, the psalmist says with equal confidence, “You are my God. My times are in your hand” (vv. 14-15). I hope Marta feels held by God and the whole of this psalm too.
Prayer: O Healing Heart, listen to the depth of all that I feel.
Then hold my times in your hands. Amen.
Phillipians 1:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Grace to YOU and peace, sheltering servants of Christ!
Paul’s opening to his letter to the Philippians, in many ways, describes my/our situation right now. In a way I, like you, am experiencing a kind of “imprisonment” with our new “shelter in place” way of life. And I appreciate the ways in which some have responded or reached out to me with words and prayers of support in this very strange, disconcerting time. Likewise, I am striving to hold you up in prayer, and to be in touch, as I am able, to offer you words of encouragement, hope and perhaps even a little laughter and joy.
As Paul notes, we do have a great hope in the One who “began a good work among” us, a work that will be completed by “the day of Jesus Christ,” that is by the time of His return, “for all of you share in God’s grace with me.” And it is also MY prayer that your love, and care, and compassion, and generosity, “may overflow more and more” especially in these times, in ways you are able to make use of (see below for some suggestions!). For even as we are “imprisoned,” we can still reach out in different ways and share the hope and strength and love we are blessed with as Jesus walks with us by his Spirit in this time. Remember He is with us, and remember the blessings, even the little things, that we yet have in the midst of this difficult, daunting time, and share as you can, “for the glory and praise of God.”
“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
– Psalms 16:11 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for our elderly friends at Senior Star (there’s a bin in the breezeway where you can place them) – or for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Daneilson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery.
Or, make some cheerful, simple artwork – for others and for yourself – that can be put in a window to cheer you up, and those who may see it in your neighborhood.
Sign up to ring the church bells to send the message to our community that God is with us in the midst of this time, and that we at Messiah are praying for those who are affected, and for an end to the pandemic.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.