The “Daily Devos” are authored by my colleague and friend, Phil Brandt, and may contain edits and adaptations by yours truly.
Wednesday of Holy Week – Psalm 31:9-16
9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
The following is my friend’s experience in ministering to a parishioner during this time of COVID19 restrictions. It is not just his experience; it is the experience of many pastors and parishioners; neighbors and friends; families and family members, who walk in reproach of one another:
I visit a man in my parish who lives in nursing care facility. Until a few weeks ago he lived there with his wife. She died of cancer in the hospital bed next to his. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, almost no one can visit him now. Even his own children, because of a sick granddaughter, were kept from him for a while. They are making an allowance for a pastor to visit, if he is properly masked, screened for a fever, and promises not to touch him or anything else. I cannot even hold his hand as we pray. We cannot conduct a funeral yet.
These words from the psalmist are read in this Holy Week because they speak to Jesus’ passion, the fact that his disciples all fled and left him alone, the plot against his life, and so much more. They convey the emotion of Holy Week for Jesus: Terror on every side (vs. 13). As I read them, however, I cannot help but think of my friend in his room, alone with his grief. Sometimes we watch the news on TV or on our devices and hear numbers of the sick and those who have died. But they are numbers and don’t feel like real people. This man does not have the Corona virus, but he suffers from it all the same. Indeed, all of us do. I walk my streets and see my neighbors keeping appropriate distances from one another: I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors…those who see me in the street flee from me (Vs. 11).
My parishioner in the care facility has a hard time hearing me. But we say the Lord’s Prayer together. I loudly bless him with the benediction he heard in church thousands of times. The psalmist’s final verses were Jesus’ hope as he came to the bitter hours of trial, crucifixion, and lying in a tomb. And they are our hope as well. I trust in you God because you are my God. My times are in your hand. Rescue me from my enemies and persecutors. Make your face shine upon me and save me in your steadfast love.
I remind myself of these words as I walk out of that room and into the world where I get to live with my family. This man’s times and all our times are in God’s hands. I walk out of that room, but Jesus does not. He does not walk out of your life either. He has experienced the whole of humanity so that his face could shine on you and so that he could save you in his steadfast love.