Tuesday Tea-ology is here, about the grace and compassion of God.
I’m experimenting with blogging at Medium; it looks like I can get ad-free without having to pay for it or be hidden by a paywall. Anyway, here’s my first post over there, a brief meditation on the comfort that comes from knowing God’s providential control.
Spirit of all grace, Spirit of salvation and life, sanctify my soul in your perfect peace. Spirit of promise, work in me the fulfillment of the promises, and lift my eyes by day and by night to the blessed hill of Calvary. Spirit of holy-love, put in me love of holiness and of the Holy One, who for me walked the path to Calvary. Holy Spirit, let your hand of mercy rest on me tonight—Amen
“Bright with Hope”
How you sing,
Here in our gloom and tragedy,
All we see is
Sickness and fear,
No sense of solace, no glimmer
That God is near.
How you sing!
You are the hint
Of better things in view
Of life renewed, bright tints abloom,
Of newness springing through, beyond
Our grief and gloom.
Here you sing,
Amid our sorrow,
Unabashed, bright with hope
We will not fear.
Where do we find the strength and confidence to stand firm against opposition, to stand strong in times of fear and uncertainty?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2, NIV).
We are small, fragile and easily frightened. But there is a blessed Therefore, because of which we can stand in the face of chaos. Wherefore? Because God is our refuge and strength. Because He is an ever-present help in trouble.
The children of God do not face life’s tragedies and terrors alone. We do not face the shaking of nations in our own strength. No, we can lean upon the arms of the Almighty. Wherever we are and whatever we face, we can call out to the omnipresent, omnipotent God.
And we are confident, knowing His loving care. The Father sent His own Son as a sacrifice for our redemption; won’t He hear us when we call?
What shall we say in times of fear and uncertainty? We will not fear. Why not? God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
The pandemic has called up a variety of responses, some of them more helpful than others. “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands” is sound advice. But is there a deeper message we might speak to this time of fear, danger, uncertainty, and death?
Actress Gal Gadot got together with a number of other celebrities, producing a little video that was promoted by major media channels. The idea of serenading the world in a time of crisis was a kind sentiment, and good for morale; the content of this particular serenade was awful. Gadot says that the time of isolation has got her feeling philosophical, and says that she heard of another serenade she heard, of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Gadot then begins the song, which is picked up by numerous celebrities as described here. The song is a naïve humanist fantasy, imagining a world where the elimination of nations, private property, and religion leads to perfect unity and peace. The hypocrisy of a group of celebrities singing a song that contains the line “Imagine no possessions” is staggering, but not nearly so troubling as the rest of the vision for mankind they exhort us to imagine.
“Imagine there’s no heaven…No hell below us,” the song suggests, as though the loss of a sense of eternal destiny will encourage generosity and the brotherhood of man. “And no religion too” it later adds, as though the loss of transcendent morality and meaning will contribute to world peace. The song’s diagnosis of the human condition is profoundly flawed.
But, more importantly, it is a delusion. We are being asked to imagine a world that simply does not and cannot exist–a world without God and without hope. It is a comfort to know that Lennon’s vision can never be realized; even a global atheistic socialist state could do nothing about the fact that there is a heaven, there is a hell, and there is a God whether humans acknowledge Him or not.
In a time of crisis, we need to be reminded of the profound truths that define our existence in this life and in the life to come. That is what has been lacking in so much of our society’s response to the pandemic, and it is the opposite message of “Imagine.” On the contrary, this is not a time to daydream, but a time to wake up.
Memento Mori, says the ancient Christian tradition–remember that you have to die. A pandemic should serve to remind us that life is finite, and all too often short. Life is serious, and meaningful; but it is serious and meaningful because there is a life to come. There is a God above, there is a heaven and there is a hell.
We have had national calls to prayer, and that is very good; but they ought to be accompanied by national calls to repentance. It would be a tragedy if concern about the pandemic moves us to wash our hands, but not our hearts. It would be a travesty to pray one moment for God’s deliverance, and the next moment to sing “Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.”
I am not a prophet, to claim that COVID-19 is God’s judgment on us for x sin. But every disease is a consequence of the fall, and a reminder that we live in a fallen world. And every such reminder urges us to wake up and look to the wellbeing of our souls and of the souls of others. God sent His Son to bear the sins of the world, to take away the curse and bring us the offer of eternal life by faith in Him. And God offers, to all who will receive the gift of life in Jesus Christ, a future more wonderful than we can possibly imagine.
Rain is in the air,
and green upon the grass, upon
the lichened limbs and trunks of trees,
green of impending spring, eager
from the wash of rain; the buds chafe
to blush with lush again
and earth and sky forgets the plague,
forgets the curse, so breathless
to rehearse the yearly pageant of
the fall’s reverse.
Prophesy, you cleansing rains,
you greening fields and prickling buds!
Make of our memento mori
the promise of new life to be.
Just a quick list of a few things to help with the self-isolation of the pandemic:
- Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe (and everything else on Avrotros Klassiek)
- The Black Book of Carmarthen
- One-Star Reviews of National Parks (#11 is my favorite)
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories by Magpie Audio
- The paintings of Thomas Cole
- Most importantly, The Holy Bible
For there is no comfort to compare with the Word of God:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, NIV)
Thank you, Lord, for this Lord’s Day. Be glorified in our worship on this weekly resurrection day, the celebration of hope and affirmation of new life in you. All things are in your hands, and we depend utterly on your mercy and gracious protection. You are almighty, utterly good, and gracious beyond compare. We can trust you, and live fearlessly in the strength of your promise of unending life.
Starlit skies and cloudy nights alike bear the witness of your infinite transcendence and perfect peace, O Majesty Divine. God above all, and strangely near, be near to me through every hour of darkness. Shelter my loved ones beneath your mighty hand. Rest my mind and soul in you, from every anxious thought, from every worry, doubt, or fear. Come close, and keep me close to you, blessed Triune Majesty—Amen.