Dear church,

My reading from the Psalms today had me in Psalm 55. It is one of King David’s psalms of anguish. Things weren’t going well for David. He wrote “the noise of the enemy” was making him restless. Is there any “noise” that is bothering you today? We come to learn that the crux of David’s problem was the betrayal by a close companion, “my familiar friend.” David didn’t tell us who this person was.

The psalms are like that. They are sufficiently vague (most of the time) to enable us to use them as our own prayers. We can take the concepts and situations that show themselves in the psalms and fill them with our own specific needs and circumstances. Of course, anyone who has been betrayed by a loved one could pick this psalm up and pray it for themselves. But you can explore other ways to use this psalm in your prayers. Perhaps that “familiar friend” is your body. Perhaps your body is failing you in unexpected ways. There is much to lament in that. You might find more ways to use this psalm as well.

And, of course, this is a psalm of hope. “Cast your burden on the Lord,” David wrote, “and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” It reminds me of the parable from yesterday about the man who built his house on the rock. He was unmoved. He heard and did the words of Jesus, and nothing could shake that house. It stood firm. The faithful are sustained by Christ, and he will never permit them to be moved. I just encourage you to look for ways for the psalms to guide your prayers.

Our Gospel of Matthew reading today is chapter 8. There’s a lot of action packed into that chapter. A healed leper. A healed servant. A marveling Jesus. A healed mother-in-law. Demons cast out. A teaching about discipleship. A calmed storm. Marveling disciples. More demons cast out. And there was a lot of “begging” going on. I hope your time in reading this chapter was fruitful.

For me, I focused on the calming of the storm. The disciples did “follow” Jesus onto the boat. We have to give them credit for that, especially after Jesus laid out the high cost of following him.

As I prayed through this little story, I sensed Jesus’ response to his frightened disciples come to the front. It stood out to me as highly important. The disciples rushed to the sleeping Jesus and said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And Jesus admonished them. “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” He didn’t admonish them for coming to him in their time of need. He admonished them for their fear.

Jesus was not afraid. He had been asleep. We are to be like Jesus – people who have dealt appropriately with fear, people who have given all things over to God.

I’m sure we could talk about this everyday, especially in this time of the coronavirus. People are scared. If they are not scared about getting sick themselves, they are scared about their loved ones getting sick. And if they aren’t scared about that, they are scared about the wrecked economy.

For me personally, I can find myself getting worried (scared?) about the future of the church – not just the Church at Redstone but the church in America. I believe the church cannot be the church unless it gathers together. There’s something sacred that happens when we gather. We’ve had television and internet church for a long time, and it’s a cheap, cheap substitute for the actual, embodied gathering of the church. And so I worry that people might become satisfied with their internet churches – like eating Pop-Tarts instead of real food.

And so this is a time when many people can be fearful about many things. Jesus’ teaching to his disciples, both through his words and through his example, was they should not be people of fear – ever. Not even when the boat is getting swamped and it is impossible to see through the wind and the rain.

So I picture how the disciples could have acted differently. They could have sized up the situation with calm in their hearts, recognized that it was beyond their ability to fix, and then sought the aid of Jesus. They could have simply given it over to him in confidence rather than a frantic last resort. In faith, they could have left the result completely up to him – fearlessly ready to live or die with Jesus. And when Jesus rebukes a storm, there’s a “great calm” that follows.

This is actually heavy stuff. How are you doing in this area? Keep reading in the Gospel of Matthew! I know you’ll be blessed if you do.

Chris

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