Come to my help, O God
A Word to Friends in Ministry April 30, 2021 revTFC
Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue. Those words drifted up into the sky with a hushed holiness, almost a reverence. The Session of our small church in Santa Rosa, CA was holding its monthly meeting in an elder’s backyard due to Covid precautions. Eight of us were spaciously seated around a fire pit. Early in the meeting I encouraged us to memorize this short first verse from Psalm 70: Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue. Over the course of the evening, we stopped four or five different times to speak them out loud again. Twilight had passed, and the night sky was adorned with a bazillion stars, constellations and a rising moon. As the smoke from the fire drifted up, so did the words. A prayer of desperation. A longing. A confession of dependence. An acknowledgement of need. Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue. Hearing eight voices softly sharing the words, my heart was buoyed.
To be honest, I needed a boost. I have felt some acute discouragement during these pandemic days. Not about pastoring or the Church or our congregation, but discouragement over human beings. I tend to be a glass-half-full optimist by nature, and probably idealistic to a fault.
Despite the disconnect with my theological understanding, I usually think most people will do the right thing most of the time. When the pandemic began I truly thought it would be a time for human beings to shine. Particularly in the United States. After the increasingly rancorous and divisive national life of the last several years, surely a pandemic would pull us together. Surely having a virus as a common enemy would encourage our care of others, sacrifice for the common good and pulling together to row in the same direction.
I could not have imagined that we would grow exponentially even more polarized and bitterly partisan over things like whether to listen to public health officials or politicians, whether or not to wear masks, or if vaccinations are a good thing. Inconceivable. The divides have only deepened. Add to it the continued struggle for equity among races, the constant gun violence, the strain of police force, the storming of the capital in January and the huge gap between political rhetoric and truth…and my idealistic hopes have been more than dashed. Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.
But something clicked for me with this simple and unoriginal thought: there is nothing new here. Nothing at all. Oh, sure, the circumstances or settings change, but all of this has happened before and there was a time when we could name the cause: sin. Sin. Old and dusty and unpopular as that three-letter word is, it still describes our situation. The tale of human brokenness is the most unoriginal plot ever written. The same things just keep happening over and over. Try as we might to dissect it, be optimistic, find other root causes, jump on the bandwagon for the latest remedy (more technology? more education?), we are mired in the same place. We need a Savior. Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.
All of this leads me to the only optimism that is realistic. The only help we can offer our broken world. We know a Savior. We can point people to Jesus. To the cross. To God’s love. “There is an absence of goodness among us because there is an absence of God within us,” Eugene Peterson wrote. Our calling, our privilege as pastors or elders or businesspeople or teachers or nurses or retirees, is to open doors for the presence of God. To help people see there is a source for goodness.
It used to be that we thought evangelism was showing people the threat of hell and scaring them into the kingdom. It never worked too well and is probably less effective now than ever. But walking people into God’s presence? Demonstrating the difference between a life of despair or monotony or self-focus, and one that acknowledges a Savior? Those things continue to fire me up. I have a friend who says “Because of Jesus, I know when I get up every morning who I am…and what I’m supposed to do.” He knows things most people search for their entire lives.
So yes, I’m down on human beings and our ability to act well or do good. It’s discouraging. But I’m hugely energized by a fresh realization that the gospel is more needed than ever. Our Savior is needed now more than ever. And we are not alone in doing this gospel work–Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.
Peace of Christ,