03 March 2009

Lenten Devotions: Redemption

I consider the days of old, 
and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night;
I meditate and search my spirit:
"Will the Lord spurn forever, 
and never again be favorable?
Has God's steadfast love ceased for ever?
Are God's promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has God in anger shut up God's compassion?"
And I say, "It is my grief
that the right have of the Most High has changed."
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
     I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work, 
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.  
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Psalm 77.5-15

In this time of economic upheaval, it's hard to keep a sense of perspective.  That is, of course, unless your perspective includes the very real possibility of poverty and/or homelessness.  What I mean to say is this:  the well-dressed women and men screaming about the end of the world from their comfortable television studios in New York aren't really convincing.  Something tells me most of them will make it out of this 'crisis' alive.  
However, there are some folks who really understand the psalmist's prayer above.  There are those who now question whether or not they've been abandoned by God, in anger or neglect or sheer wrath.  
Hear, also, the trust of the psalmist.  Now in this valley of the shadow of death, the psalmist remembers the days of old, when God redeemed the people.  What is absent from the psalmist's remembrance?  Any idea that unceasing prosperity is the only way of sensing God's presence.  The people of God have suffered before, and we will suffer again, but God's watchfulness never ceases.  Verses 19-20 of this psalm read, 
"your way was through the sea, 
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron."
Passing through mighty waters under God's care is NOT a safe means of travel.  Water is a chaotic force in ancient Near Eastern' thought.  Here the psalmist trusts in God's care in the midst of the storm, seeing in Moses and Aaron (and Miriam, one could add) the benevolent care God lavishes on God's people in hard times.
Financial distress is not a sign that God has abandoned us.  Frankly, I'm of the mind that this is merely a mess of our own making, and that beyond the immediate needs of food and shelter, God's not really worried about pensions, salaries, etc.  We are called to trust God in the midst of trial, not to appeasing God that the trial might end.  
What does redemption look like?  That's the question before us.  Is redemption marked by the return to materialism and consumerism that marked us before the bottom fell out of the market?  Hardly.  Bob Marley once sang, "None but ourselves can free our minds."  What if redemption were marked by the realization that no circumstance may hold us captive if God is indeed our shepherd and guardian?  That, to me, seems redemption worth a song or two.
The statue is "Redemption Song" by Laura Facey-Cooper, which stands in Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica.


  1. The stuff you write is easily ten times better than any published Lenten devotions I've ever seen.

    This is great. Make sure you keep it. You know, for the book you need to write.

  2. That statue is amazing, as are your words. Thanks.

  3. nicely done... again! I agree with LH... save 'em b/c someday you'll get published... (and then ya know I can say 'oh I knew him when...')