Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
While these are unprecedented days for many of us, they are not unprecedented for the Church.
I recently learned that a few years ago, during the height of the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many churches committed to praying Psalm 91 each day.
Psalm 91 is a prayer of gratitude celebrating the shelter and protection God gives his people during unprecedented experiences and is quite fitting for the days we find ourselves in.
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
As I was praying Psalm 91 this morning, verses 11 and 12 caught my attention because they are quoted in Matthew 4:6 and the context in which they are quoted is very important for our current situation.
“Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
’ Jesus said to him, “Again it is written,
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Some people have wondered why we are suspending worship and other activities on campus. “Other churches are having worship in person,” they say. “Shouldn’t we have faith that God will protect us? Isn’t that what Psalm 91 is all about?”
Psalm 91 is indeed about having faith in God, but it is not an invitation to live foolishly. As followers of Jesus we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Part of loving God with our minds is using the logic and reason God has given us to make wise decisions.
Logic and reason reveal that the single best way we can help our community is doing all we can to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 through the practice of good hygiene and social distancing. These two practices are a practical way to fulfill the second half the Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If you were not able to worship with us digitally on Sunday, you can follow the link
to watch the service now
. Each week we will be hosting virtual worship experiences to help you and your family make it through the days and weeks ahead. I hope you will make plans to join us through our online campus.
I also hope you will join me in praying Psalm 91 each day as we journey through these strange, strange days. You may want to print out a copy of Psalm 91 and post it somewhere where you will see it daily.
Know that every time I pray Psalm 91, I will be holding you in my heart.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Donnie Wilkinson
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
and, as you have bound us to yourself in love,
leave us not who call upon your name,
but grant us your salvation,
made known in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Common Worship: Morning and Evening Prayer)