Pandemic Promises

Think back to everything you know about God’s promises. Perhaps you can even claim a time in your life when you were the beneficiary of one of his promises. The list is endless.

For me, the biggest promise made in the Bible is when Jesus told us that he would never leave us. He explained to his disciples that he was simply going ahead to prepare a place in heaven for us and then reminded them (and us) at his departure that he is always with us “even unto the ends of the earth.”

This morning’s Psalm is a great reminder of an Old Testament promise that God made to us after the Great Flood. You may remember from your Sunday School lessons that when the flood waters receded, Noah saw a rainbow in the sky. God explained that he put it there as a reminder of his promise that he would never again destroy the earth.

Hold that thought in your heart as we read Psalm 105. This Psalm recounts the miraculous delivery of the Hebrew nation through the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army close at their heels. God delivered them from slavery and deposited them in the Promised Land. He lived up to his earlier promise that they would not be destroyed.

What promise can we claim from this in regard to the pandemic?

Psalm 105 (New Revised Standard Version)

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually.

I hope that the pandemic has brought us enough of a “pause” as we’ve followed stay-at-home orders to seek the Lord and his strength. This has been something I have tried to do in my personal discipleship….to seek his presence continually. How are you doing with that?

Remember the wonderful works he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
    and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
    for dread of them had fallen upon it.

Egypt was GLAD when they left! The might of the Lord was so great, they were relieved to be rid of Israel from their land. God provided light, food, and water for his people in the desert.

39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
    and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
    and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
    and Abraham, his servant.

43 So he brought his people out with joy,
    his chosen ones with singing
.

What does this say to us, a pandemic people? It tells us that this time of sickness WILL END. It reminds us of God’s mighty power to deliver US, his people. It reassures us that at the appointed time the virus will be wiped clean from the earth and the pandemic will be over. Thanks be to God!

God always remembers his holy promises. Let us come out with joy and sing to the Lord.

God Keeps His Promises

Dwelling

What is your mind dwelling on right now? Are you overcome with politics and campaigns? Are the pandemic’s daily death numbers, unemployment, quarantine, and imposing restrictions plaguing your thoughts? Perhaps it is your financial situation, or the daily struggle of remote learning, or maybe the hurricane season that has you preoccupied.

One of the challenges we all face in our discipleship is setting aside our day-to-day worries and aggravations so that we can allow space for God’s word to filter in. It is a struggle. It takes perseverance, discipline, and a plan.

A friend stopped me the other day and told me that she saves these devotionals to read on Sunday mornings. She gets up at sunrise, makes coffee, and walks to a sand dune where she can watch the sun come up over the ocean. She reads and worships in that setting. I was extremely blessed to know this. It occurs to me that she is able to spend time dwelling on God’s presence because she puts herself in a “dwelling” that is conducive to focusing.

Where are you right now? Are you in a quiet place that allows contemplation? Or are you surrounded by distraction? Changing our locale when we are studying scripture may just be the thing we need to really take it all in.

Psalm 105 (Common English Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord;
    call upon his name;
    make his deeds known to all people!
Sing to God;
    sing praises to the Lord;
    dwell on all his wondrous works!

Being able to dwell on God’s wonderful works makes a huge difference in how the rest of the day goes. Putting his mercy and grace foremost in our thoughts can change our perspective and attitude.

Give praise to God’s holy name!
    Let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
Pursue the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always!

A day that starts with pursuing God and his strength is a day that moves in the right direction. When we remember his wondrous works and seek his face we find ourselves not looking to the world for direction and comfort. And that is a very good thing indeed.

Remember the wondrous works he has done,
    all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared—
    you who are the offspring of Abraham, his servant,
        and the children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

God is a just God, a loving God, a GIVING God, and a powerful God. Dwell on that today and you will be blessed by the hour.

Dwelling in God’s Beauty by Michelle Robertson

When Songs are Silent

A few weeks ago I attended my conference’s Clergy Executive Session via ZOOM. This is an annual meeting where we affirm the commissioning and ordaining of new pastors, remember pastors who have died in the past year, receive reports of those who have chosen to go on leave or exit the denomination, etc. I logged in as I was finishing an outdoor class at my YMCA and the opening session began as I was driving home.

This was not a good plan. I was traveling on our busy bypass when all of a sudden a gorgeous baritone voice came through my phone. He began to sing “Be Thou My Vision.”

My favorite hymn.

When the bishop introduced him, she invited us to sing along from our multiple locations across Georgia and beyond.

I began to sing and immediately started to cry. It wasn’t just a finger-dabbing kind of crying; it was a full blown shoulder-shuddering, snot-flowing sob. This is not a good thing to do while driving on a busy summer day of beach traffic.

Singing is a beautiful, cathartic, uplifting, soul-stirring way to connect with the Holy Spirit. Somehow songs poke us in a place where we don’t usually get poked. Music resonates deep in our core, where we remember our mothers gently rocking and humming us to sleep and our daddies singing silly songs with us on long car rides.

Psalms are both painful and healing to me right now. They are painful in that they were written to be sung out loud on a journey with other pilgrims, which of course we can’t do right now. But they are also healing because I know that there WILL come a time when we can sing together again in large groups. Lord, hasten that day!

But for today, we sing silently with our eyes.

Psalm 105 (Common English Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord;
    call upon his name;
    make his deeds known to all people!
Sing to God;
    sing praises to the Lord;
    dwell on all his wondrous works!

Everyone I know, myself included, is hitting a wall right now. The mask wars, the number of COVID cases continuing to rise, remote learning gearing up to start (causing great stress for teachers, parents, and kids), waiting for days on end for COVID test results to come back, cabin fever, fears for our livelihood, sorrow over the 700,000 deaths worldwide, the lack of healthy social interaction…it is all getting to us. Tempers are fragile, friendships are frayed, families are not speaking to each other, and we need help. We need hope. We especially need to remind each other of the wondrous works God has done, is doing, and will do again.

Give praise to God’s holy name!
    Let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
Pursue the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always!
Remember the wondrous works he has done,
    all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared—
    you who are the offspring of Abraham, his servant,
        and the children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

When singing brings only tears, it is time to give silent praise. When a simple conversation provokes an angry response, it is time to seek the Lord. When everything you are doing feels overwhelming, remember God’s marvelous works, and let your heart rejoice.

Pursue the Lord and his strength when yours has run out. He will never run out on you.

Sing Songs of Silence by Michelle Robertson

Talk About It

What do you like to talk about with your friends? Do you discuss current affairs? Family updates? The weather? Fashion? Politics…..oh, never mind. Hardly anybody ventures THERE any more!

I have a delightful moment once a week when I ZOOM with my two daughters and my niece. We talk about everything and anything. We catch up on the news of their children and jobs, we discuss the pandemic, we giggle about a feisty lady named Nancy whose room is opposite my niece’s office in the nursing home where she works, and we recommend books and shows we have enjoyed binging during the Pandemic.

Apparently there is a Japanese show called “Terrace House” that captured their imagination. I tried to interest them in the History Channel’s survivalist competition “Alone,” but I’m sure I lost them when I described how a contestant not only took down a 600 lb. moose, but killed a wolverine WITH AN AX. Those were my exact words as our free ZOOM call cut off, and that benediction has stayed with them for a week. “WITH AN AX!”

The content of our conversations with one another reveals who we are. Talking is our way to spur one another on, offer encouragement, support each other, give suggestions and corrections, and speak out loud the things that are nestled in our hearts.

In today’s psalm, we hear a call to speak about our Lord. We are invited to tell about his deeds among the people. We are asked to talk about his wondrous works:

Psalm 105 (New King James Version)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Think back for a moment when you first learned about God and his love for you. You didn’t fall into that knowledge in a library, most likely. I’m guessing you didn’t take a walk on the beach and have a sudden revelation. No, chances are SOMEBODY TOLD YOU.

He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”

So here is your challenge for the day: go and tell. Tell somebody about God’s goodness in your life and his covenant of love that lasts forever. Talk about what having a relationship with God means to you. You may be the only Jesus somebody will see and hear today!

Go, and tell.

This little guy came to Worship on the Lawn. Photo by Sharon Whitehurst

The Google

Do you remember a time when you couldn’t pick up your phone to access a global source of information in a matter of seconds? We are so accustomed to having a map, dictionary, encyclopedia, calculator, instant news, weather, etc. at our finger tips, it’s no wonder we freak out when we lose our smart phones or worse, drop them in the toilet. Yes, I’ve done that. Twice.

I haven’t the foggiest notion of how “the Google” works, but I do know that you have to frame your search inquiry correctly to get the results you want. As search engines evolve and algorithms track your previous searches, it gets easier to find things out. For example, I do so many searches for scriptures that scripture references now pop up whenever I type in a few words. Alexa listens to our conversations and then an ad for that very thing magically pops up on our FaceBook feed. We are living in a time when artificial intelligence not only responds to our inquires, but actually directs our behavior. Big Brother is not just watching us, he has moved into the guest room and has commandeered the best fluffy comforter and the biggest bathroom in the house.

But none of this happens until you initiate a request for a response. You start the process by seeking something: a product, an answer, a direction…you seek, and Google finds.

I wonder if the Wisemen would have found Jesus faster if they had Google Maps and a Star Finder app.

Occasionally during the holidays you will find something that says, “Wise people still seek him.” I love that. Whenever we stretch out an arm to shade our eyes and cast our vision outward, we can easily find God. He is never far away from our presence, and longs to be found.

He can be found in the eyes of a homeless man looking for help. He can be heard in the cries of a child separated from her family at our nation’s border. He can be felt in the palm of a dying grandmother, longing for one last hand-holding with her grandson. He can be seen in the Sunday morning choir as they stand to bring their harmony into worship. God can be found in God’s people everywhere: all we have to do is look.

In seminary, a professor taught us that the Bible is God’s love letter to his people. In scripture we find not just the answers to the complexity of the world and beyond, but the Answer to everything in Christ Jesus. The Old Testament is the search. The New Testament brings the answer.

Hebrews 11 The Message (MSG)

11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

6 And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

Anyone who wants to approach God must believe that he cares enough to respond to those who SEEK him. Ask, knock, and seek, and you will find.

Psalm 105 English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;

    make known his deeds among the peoples!

2  Sing to him, sing praises to him;

    tell of all his wondrous works!

3  Glory in his holy name;

    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

4 Seek the Lord and his strength;

    seek his presence continually!

Got questions? Need answers? Feeling empty, and long to be made full? Seek God today. He will be found.

Layers of Light by Michelle Robertson.