(Also at LeaderWorks)
Driving to church yesterday, I caught the news feed on my smartphone out of the corner of my eye. I clicked the radio on. Shooting. Night Club. Massacre. Orlando. The death tolls was, at that time, about 20. I thought, “…this is like San Bernardino again…this is our own Paris or Brussels…what a tragedy.”
Fifteen minutes later, the service at Christ Church was ready to begin. What do I say? What meager words could I offer to a group of early morning worshippers who would be in shock and sadness? What dare I say? There were still so many unanswered questions…
I tried on a few thoughts and phrases before I entered to lead the congregation. “As you all may have heard…” seemed empty. “Terrorism has struck again…” seemed true but trite.
“We need to pray this morning with the people of Orlando…” seemed the most honest and plain. That’s what I planned. But what then? How do you pray? What are the words you say when your own words won’t suffice?
I turned to the most heart-rich, honest, trusted, collection of prayers we have ready access to: the Psalms. And I turned to a Psalm that I have inadvertently all but memorized over years of reading it at bedsides and gravesides: Psalm 91.
I asked the church to join me in prayer for the people of Orlando…and we prayed Psalm 91 together.
The words seemed to have been written for Orlando: They are filled images that transfer completely to that terrible darkness. There are scenes of death and destruction. There is mayhem everywhere. Yet,there is hope and confidence. Here are a few of the verses that hit home with me:
- I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
- For he will deliver you from the deadly pestilence.
- Under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness (not mine) is a shield and buckler.
- You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
- You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
- Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
- When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
- With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
At first one might say, it over-promises. It speak about deliverance and invincibility; protection and rescue. Well that didn’t happen in Orlando…at least for the dead. Lots of people are dead.
But the words are stronger than that. The speak about a hope and confidence in God no matter what happens; a trust that is unshakable…even though terror strikes. Even when it strikes. The Psalmist declares that even when the unspeakable happen, God can be trusted to ultimately protect and defend. For the believer, God can be trusted to save and protect, rescue and reward those who put their confidence in Him. It does not offer invincibility…it offers immortality!
It is a longer version of another trusted Psalm (23), “Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”.
I am so glad that I didn’t need to provide any commentary of my own. These words suffice.
I believe that the Psalms will be even more important in the decades to come for beleivers. When kings of the earth rise up in revolt (Psalm 2), when mountains shake and waters foam (Psalm 46), we can look for help (Psalm 121). Maybe the Psalms can become once again the trusted Prayer Book of the church. Because ultimately, the Psalms point us in the right direction…and show us the truth: God is our rock and our fortress. (Psalm 91)
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.