Devotion for Monday, June 15
THE CHURCH DISPERSED
Psalm 42:4-5 Good News Translation - from Exile
My heart breaks when I remember the past,
when I went with the crowds to the house of God and led them as they walked along,
a happy crowd, singing and shouting praise to God.
Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him, my savior and my God.
This Psalm may speak to our present condition. We miss our happy crowd singing together as we praise God. We miss hearing the combined voices of our congregation as we say "The Lord's Prayer," together. We miss gathering with our friends and worshipping in our familiar sanctuary. The situation for the psalmist was not just isolation, but exile. During the period when Babylon created havoc for the people of Israel and then of Judah, their temple was destroyed by marauders and people were rounded up and taken from their homes into a foreign land. In Babylon, temples to pagan gods loomed large and the "chosen" people were to live among strangers. Still, the people put their hope in God. They were sure that they would be saved.
Did they eventually return to their homeland? Did things go back to normal for them? That is certainly what is on our minds today as we go through this pandemic. We would like some assurance that everything will be just like it was before all this sickness and death descended, like a horrible nightmare, on our world. Looking back at Bible history, yes there was a return to the homeland for the people of Zion. God's children went back home and the Temple was rebuilt. You can read all about it in the book of Nehemiah. But something else very significant happened. While they were in Babylon, the Jews formed small cells, like house churches form today. These groups expanded into what we now know as synagogues. People were able to gather weekly in these smaller worship centers to study God's Word and worship together. No longer were they relegated to trips to the temple only on special occasions. The people adjusted to their "new normal" and God found new ways to bless them.
"Hope in God," says the psalmist to the exiled Jews and to us here and now. When we are sad and troubled, wondering what is coming next, "hope in God, and once again we will praise Him."
Lord, we praise you. We worship you. We don't understand where we go from here, but we know that you will continue to bless us. You will sustain us through this pandemic and bring us out into a new way of understanding your goodness to us. Our hope is in you, Lord. We pray through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.