Reflections When Times are Uncertain
I wonder when the last time you opened your Bible to read Psalm 75. OK, let me be honest this Psalm is not on my top ten list of passages to read either. Today, this passage came up in my morning devotions this morning so allow me to repeat part the part that caught my attention this morning: “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds. You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah (Psalm 75:1–3) IF you wonder what Selah means roughly translated it is praise God! Now add Psalm 57:7 alongside that, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” For me at least it is a solid reminder that regardless of what is happening around me, despite the dire forecasts God in still in control!
What about tomorrow? At the risk of just citing Bible verses, remember what Jesus said when comes to worry: Matthew 6:25, 27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” With all the dire prognostications about what can or might happen it is easy to lose focus and begin to wonder what will happen next, or what we will do next. I would invite you to listen to the words of the Bible first before the morning news and see what difference that makes in the way your day goes.
What about the future? I have a few thoughts, and thoughts are all I have because no one has a crystal ball to see the future, and God is not giving me any special insight as to what might be. What I can say is that we will not be returning to “normal”. Remember, normal is only a setting on your dryer. What we have been accustomed to, what we expect to see is probably going to be radically different in the days and even years to come. If you are old enough, you remember when politicians rode in open limos to be seen by everyone. Now show me an important figure who does not have an armored limo escorting them wherever they go. Why? One name, John Fitzgerald Kennedy who was assassinated when I was in Elementary school. When was the last time you flew on an airplane without a passing a metal detector? Why? Hijacking! However, how long did it take before these procedures were accepted as the way things are done, the “new normal”. Now we are seeing people wearing masks in public, Plexiglas dividers between us and our checkout clerks at stores. How long will be before this is all seen as part of the culture? I don’t know, and I for one am not anxious to see it become that “new normal”, but I know it could easily be the way things are done!
What about Christianity? Much of what we associate with the practice or our faith is quite simply part of what we grew up with. Think about what most of us call “Christian Education” or Sunday School. The reality is that this is something that took place following the Industrial Revolution. Sunday was the only day when Children were not required to work in factories and so churches began “Sunday Schools”. What did we do before that? I wish I could be definitive, but it would seem that the practice of passing along our faith in Jesus Christ and passing along the passion to be wholly devoted followers of Jesus Christ was dependent on the parents, not a slick mass-produced curriculum. What will happen if we cannot go back to what we were accustomed to? What if discipleship once again became dependent on each of us to pass along our faith and practice to the next generation? The mid-week prayer service, Catechism or as it was known when I was growing up, Family Night? That too is a modern invention, not something organic to Christianity. You see I am not sure what the future holds, but I like the title of Todd Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains. Bolsinger is referencing the belief of the Lewis and Clark expedition that once they crossed the Rockies they would find the Northwest Passage and simply canoe down a river to the Pacific Ocean. In light of that belief, they carried their canoes into the Rockies until it became apparent that horses were the more appropriate means of travel. In similar fashion, might we as the body of Christ be carrying on outmoded models believing that once we pass this rough patch life will return to what we have always done? What will you do if you cannot return to the way you always did things? What will happen if dispersed worship becomes the new practice? What will happen if Zoom and phone calls replace many in person meetings? Once again, keep in mind when the pillars of the earth shake, it is God who holds things firm. That not one of us can add a single moment to our lives by worrying. We cannot change the clock back by wishing it so. What we can do is seek to be faithful, to listen to the God who has never left himself without a witness in this world. We can follow the one who told us that all authority in heaven and on earth is given to him and we are to go and make disciples of all nations. I want to remind you Jesus did not say that to ordained ministers, but to a rag tag group of men and women who had committed all to follow him. My point in addressing clergy specifically is that every believer has a responsibility to make this change, to address the challenges we are encountering and work to move forward.
Today, I have no significant insights, no earth shattering pronouncements, only the calm assurance that God is in control and he will see you through this time and every time. Let me close with the passage that brought me to this place today: “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds. You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah (Psalm 75:1–3)