A Devotion for Monday, March 30, 2020
Psalm 143 (NRSV)
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me, or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
8 Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Save me, O Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life. In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.
12 In your steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am your servant.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
“ I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”
In our journey of faith there will be times when we feel completely dried up: our energy gone, our spirit dull, our hope evaporated. This dryness can creep up on us until one day it seems we have nothing left to give. Or it can come upon us when we let someone down who really needed our help. Any way you look at it, the feeling is one of desolation. “Therefore my spirit faints within me, the psalmist cried out. “My heart within me is appalled (v.4). Our entire being is ravaged ,desperate.
Only God can provide us with the nourishment that will restore our life. And our request is not simply “Give me a drink of water” but “There is a good chance I will die if my thirst for you is not quenched.” God is always there, ready and waiting. Be bold just as the psalmist was: “Save me, O Lord … preserve my life” (vv.9,11).
Prayer: Dear God, help me ot remember that you are always there, always loving me. Amen.
1 Kings 17:17-24 (NRSV)
17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19 But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”
22 The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
“His illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.” Sounds like a story line we might find in a newspaper today, what with the current pandemic of the respiratory illness Covid-19 and the mounting death count from the disease. The death of her son devastated the woman in this account from 1 Kings. And so she lashes out, “What have you against me, O mn of God?”
Ever been in that position, the one of saying to God “what have you against me, O God?!” When bad things happen, it’s not at all unusual for us to turn heaven-ward and point a finger, saying “what do you have against me?!” We can find many instances of this expression of wonder and inquiry in the Psalms. Or, we could turn to Job and find more. Looking to God for answers, especially in times of loss, suffering or pain, is an age-old one.
We look for answers to the “why;” we look to blame someone, and God is a natural place to put that blame since we see God as having the power to save, and to heal. Recall Martha and Mary from our Sunday Gospel reading whose brother had died before Jesus’ finally arrives, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We also look for comfort and strength to deal with those things which have hurt us, and which we have no control over.
Unlike the son of the woman in 1 Kings, we don’t have the benefit of having a “man of God” – or Jesus – right there with us, in person, to engage with, and to work a miracle of healing or raise our loved one back to life.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t instances of healing in our lives, but illness, like the current Covid-19 infection, does claim lives – and we all die sometime. The thing is, Jesus didn’t cure, or raise from the dead, every such person in the communities he went to. And when he did perform such actions, such miracles, he did so with more in mind than just restoring physical health. He did it to make a point – like forgiving sins (often directly attached to illness and death in his day), or as a way of showing that all people of faith – not just Jews – were of concern to him; or giving us a foretaste of things to come, to let us know that in him was – is – life.
That life is about more than physical health, and about more than life after death, it’s about life that is lived in, and with, and through, the love of God. Life in this sense is about much more than existence, it’s about life with meaning and purpose and hope and joy that can only be found in God, and in God’s presence. In the midst of Corona Virus and tornados, and everything else that might threaten our health, or our lives, or our well-being, the promise of God’s presence can be our refuge and strength.
“A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious …
God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.”
– Martin Luther
Blessings & Peace,