The Shields of the Earth

Everything is hard right now, and for this pastor, not being able to do corporate singing is one of the harder things the pandemic has brought. That is one piece that we are struggling with as we consider when to re-gather for worship. Notice I didn’t say re-open. The church never closed, we just moved online. Many churches have seen an uptick in the number of people they can effectively reach because of this.

I call that the “Romans 8:28 factor.” In Romans 8:28, we are assured that God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him. So even in a pandemic, creative use of technology has enabled the church to not only remain open, but expand its witness.

But we can’t figure out a way to safely sing together. The droplets expelled from the mouth when singing are apparently significantly increased when the gathered people sing, so we have been discouraged from singing together once we re-gather.

Church without singing is like a day without sunshine for me. And I miss it to the point of tears.

Today’s Psalm makes many references to singing praises. In fact, “sing praise” is repeated five times. Way to rub it in, psalmist! In defense of the writer, one could hardly have ever imagined a time when singing praises was impossible, but here we are.

In concert with that instruction, we also are given an image of God as our most high King, who reigns over all the nations from his holy throne. Surely we can take comfort in that imagery. When Christ returns to establish his kingdom on earth, singing will not only be possible, but irresistible. Even the very rocks and stones will sing for joy.

Psalm 47 New King James Version

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

So while we wait, know this: the shields of the earth belong to God. In this context, shields is synonymous with princes. In a prophetic way, the psalmist is pointing to a time when the people of the God of Abraham recognize their messiah has come, and have gathered with the kings of every tribe on the earth and submit to the authority of God.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.

So today our song is, “E’en So Lord Jesus! Quickly come.”

Until we sing again…

Nothing Stops a Lab from Singing

Songs of the Pandemic

The Psalms were originally written to be sung as songs. They provide a glimpse of ancient Hebrew life when we read them and hear what the people were experiencing. Music has always been a way to record the joys, sorrows, angst, and fears of a generation. In the Psalms, we experience the hope and sadness of that generation, and surprisingly, they translate into songs for our current circumstance as well.

As you read this, think of those who have lost a loved one to COVID 19. Think of the exhaustion of the front line workers who are taking care of us, feeding us, providing services for us, and putting their own lives at risk for us.

Psalm 116 (New King James Version)

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

In every circumstance, God’s people have called upon the name of the Lord, and in every circumstance, God has inclined his ear. Wherever we find trouble and sorrow, we also find God, right there in the midst of it.

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Many have died. Many more will die. All are precious in the sight of the Lord. We are one day closer to the end of this thing, but we aren’t finished yet. How can we continue to sing in the middle of this pandemic? What should our lyrics be?

I think we should join the chorus of the original Psalmists, and sing praises. We should lift our voices high in harmonies of thanksgiving. Let us simply praise the Lord. Praising God in the storm reminds us of who he is, and whose we are. God loosed our bonds so that we might be free of all fear and sadness. Yes, there is death, but death has no sting. Praise the Lord!

16 O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
19 In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Singing Alone in the Pandemic by Wende Pritchard

Call to Worship

It’s worse in the morning.

Before you’re fully awake, before the first cup of coffee has had a chance to take root in your soul and your system, before the cobwebs fall from your brain, the worst moment of the day is when you wake up but you aren’t quite fully awake. Because some how overnight, you forgot. You forgot that something very bad happened. Then as waking-awareness comes, you suddenly remember.

This was my painful reality when my father and mother died. This was how I woke up every morning when my kids left for college. This happened to me every day when my daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer. If you have experienced loss of any kind, you know what I am talking about.

It goes like this: You wake up in your normal fog and immediately your brain goes through its usual check-list: I need coffee…what day is it…must get coffee…what do I have to do today…where is the coffee…is it really time to get up already…why am I not drinking coffee…can I hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes…then BAM. Oh, yes. I remember now. The Pandemic.

The scale and scope of this thing are still building toward some unknown peak. The economic trickle-down will be devastating.

Here on the Outer Banks we are spinning with angst. Will we have visitors this season? What if they bring the virus with them? Will we lose our foreign students who come every spring and fill important jobs that help our economy survive? Will our tiny little hospital be able to handle what’s about to happen?

Churches are closed. Financially, we will never recover. If we have just one snow day a year, we don’t make our budget for that year. This…well, this is something else entirely. What will we do?

ENOUGH. We can only take so much of this endless speculation and worry. It is grinding us down, and the truth is, we can’t control what comes next. So why let it control us?

Psalm 95 (New King James Version)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

Whenever the people of God have struggled, they have always known the remedy…to sing. Sing of God’s greatness, sing of his provision, sing choruses that remind us that he holds the deep places of the earth and the heights of the hills are in his hand. Just sing!

When we enter into worship, our minds are focused on God. Maybe this can be a time of perpetual worship, and that may be the one thing that gets us through it. On a normal day, our minds would be focused on getting tasks done, going to work, figuring out the kid’s schedules, making dinner, and getting the laundry and shopping done. Much of that is altered now. God is not.

The unchangeable nature of God is where we need to focus right now. Worship has to become a daily (hourly) thing, rather than once a week on Sunday. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our reactions and responses. When we worship, we hasten the joy. Now is the time to worship.

So when you wake up tomorrow and remember, do this. Sing in your mind. Enter into a moment of thanksgiving that WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. Consider the ways that God is the King of all creation. Give praise to the Rock of our salvation. Bow down your fears and kneel before our Maker. REMEMBER WHO GOD IS. And pray through your tears.

Then get up, and realize that you are now one day closer to the end of this. Thanks be to God.

This reminder was brought to you by the Dunwoody Police, Dunwoody, Georgia..