Genesis 16

            I’m blind as a bat without my glasses.  They’re the first thing I put on when waking in the morning, and the last thing I take off before retiring at night.  Without them I can’t distinguish anything well.  I can’t see others unless they are inches from my face.
            As bad as it would be if I didn’t have my glasses, it would be even worse if you were not seen by anyone.  I believe that one of the great tragedies of modern Western civilization is that we can live among so many other people, yet not be seen by so many of them.  The loneliness of not being seen is a terrible situation.
            The ancient woman, Hagar, certainly felt that way.  She felt an even worse circumstance: Hagar neither believed that anyone saw her and cared, nor that God saw her at all.  It was as if God lost his glasses somewhere.
            In a convoluted series of decisions, mostly outside of her control, Hagar became pregnant with Abraham’s son.  Then, Sarah, Abraham’s “real” wife got pregnant with another son.  It got complicated.  Dysfunction was all around, leaving Hagar and her young son out in the wilderness all by themselves with no one to help.  Hagar simply expected the two of them to die.
            You can feel Hagar’s despair and desperation.  She saw no hope, and nobody saw her… but there was someone watching: God.  He saw everything that happened to her – all the craziness, and all the mistreatment – and he stepped-in and acted on behalf of Hagar and her son.
            As a result, Hagar began to call God, “The God Who Sees Me.” She never again had to wonder or doubt whether she was seen.
            You might feel today that God doesn’t see your pain, is aloof and distant from your hurt, and is blind to your deep wounds.  But he sees.  He sees it all, everything.  God may not be working on the same timetable as you and me, but nevertheless he sees you.  You never have to wonder about it.

 

God of Hagar, just as you saw her in the desert and the desperate position she was in, so I ask that would see me and act according to your great mercy; through Jesus Christ, my Savior, with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalm 139:1-6

            How do you talk to yourself?  You know what I mean.  The kind of speech that goes on inside your head.  The things which you say inside your heart that no one knows but you.  I think you will agree with me that you are rather hard on yourself.  In the reclusive parts of your mind, you speak to yourself in ways that you would never say to others, nor tolerate others saying about someone else.  Only you know the depth of your own sorrows, hurts, fears, insecurities, and worries.  Except….
            God.  He knows it all.  He knows it all intimately.  And He is not repulsed.  You see, God knows that the answer to all the doubts about yourself is His protection.  You have the freedom to plumb the recesses of your heart and soul – to bring out all that is inside the cluttered closet of your mind and lay it out on the floor without fear of God calling you what you call yourself.
            Slowly read out loud these verses for today several times.  Allow the protecting God to wash over you with grace and understanding.
139 You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
You know when I am resting
or when I am working,
and from heaven
you discover my thoughts.
You notice everything I do
and everywhere I go.
Before I even speak a word,
you know what I will say,
and with your powerful arm
you protect me
from every side.
I can’t understand all of this!
Such wonderful knowledge
is far above me. (CEV)

 

Amen.

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-19

I will praise you,
my God and King,
and always honor your name.
I will praise you each day
and always honor your name.
You are wonderful, Lord,
and you deserve all praise,
because you are much greater
than anyone can understand.
Each generation will announce
to the next
your wonderful
and powerful deeds.
I will keep thinking about
your marvelous glory
and your mighty miracles
17 Our Lord, everything you do
is kind and thoughtful,
18     and you are near to everyone
whose prayers are sincere.
19 You satisfy the desires
of all your worshipers,
and you come to save them
when they ask for help 
(Contemporary English Version).
 
            Wherever I go and whomever I speak with as I move about my congregation and community, there is a great deal of anxiety, even fear, about what will happen in our nation.  Certainly, our political process of the past year along with its spirited dialogue has spawned much apprehension of the future.  And, yet, there is this angle of the psalmist to consider.  We are to think about and carefully consider some solid robust theology.
 
            God provides.  He protects.  The Lord’s presence is continually with his people.  God is good for his promises.  He deals with injustice.  Yes, our God deserves all praise, glory, and honor because standing behind all the anxiety of a puny human election of candidates is a very large deity who does his own election based in his good pleasure and purpose.
 
            In these next days, I encourage you to read this psalm again and again.  Internalize it, and let its message and theology seep into the pores of your soul so that by next week your confidence will not be in the ups or downs of your candidate and political platform, but in the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
 

 

            Mighty God, along with the psalmist I will always honor and praise your holy name.  You are far greater than I can even think or imagine.  Let my trust in you be a strong ballast in the days and years to come, both for me and for the next generations of those who believe in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

“You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
You know when I am resting
or when I am working,
and from heaven
you discover my thoughts.
You notice everything I do
and everywhere I go.
Before I even speak a word,
you know what I will say,
 and with your powerful arm
you protect me
from every side.
 I can’t understand all of this!
Such wonderful knowledge
is far above me.” (CEV)
 
            Please do not quickly pass over these inspired words from Holy Scripture.  Take some time to carefully digest each phrase slowly so that the message becomes internalized, believed, and lived in real time experience.
 
            One of the theories of human psychology is that people are driven by two primary needs:  to intimately know another person; and, to be intimately known by another.  God knows us even better than we know ourselves – and he still loves us!  There is nothing about us that God doesn’t know.  No human relationship can even come close to the level of knowing that God has for us and about us.
 
            Therefore, to know God is perhaps the greatest and highest pursuit we could ever enjoy.  God is so big and infinite that we will spend an eternity getting to know him and will never get to the end of knowing him completely.  That is the kind of God we serve.  Be encouraged today and always with the reality that you are known, and can know God.
 

 

            Immense God, you are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me.  Everything you do is marvelous!  Of this I have no doubt.  Look deep into my heart, Lord, and find out everything I am thinking.  Lead me in the ways of Jesus.  Amen.

Exodus 40:16-38

            “No matter where the people traveled, the LORD was with them.”  This last verse of Exodus perfectly summarizes not only the message of this biblical book but of the entire Bible.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and formed man and woman as the apex of his creative work.  Humans alone bear the stamp of God’s image and likeness.  People were created to be with God.  But humanity took their own path apart from God and fell into sin and disobedience.  From that point forward God has been on a massive mission to restore, reconcile, and reclaim his lost humanity so that they can be together again.
 
            God chose Abraham and set apart his descendants, the Hebrews, to be his people and be a kingdom of priests in order to reverse the curse.  God gave laws and commandments to communicate his presence with his people.  For the Jews, God was like a pillar of cloud, a sentinel watching over them.  In the fullness of time, when it was ripe for the promised Savior to come, God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus who is called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”
 
            Jesus lived a holy life, died a cruel death on our behalf to bring forgiveness of sins, rose from death, ascended to heaven, and now watches over us, interceding for us.  But that is not all; until he comes again God’s Holy Spirit has been sent to be the continuing presence of Jesus on this earth.  The Spirit is with God’s people.
 
            No matter where the Christian goes, no matter what happens, no matter the place or the situation, God is with him/her.  Nothing can separate God from his people.  There are no guarantees in life that things will turn out well, or that all will go our way.  But we have the abiding promise that God is with us because he has gone to the greatest lengths possible to make it happen.  And God’s presence is what makes all the difference.
 

 

            Ever-present God, there is nowhere in which you are not.  Thank you for your continuing presence.  Enable me to always live in awareness of this reality so that my life might confidently follow you anytime and anywhere; through Jesus Christ, my Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalm 23


            This is one of those days where sacred time needs to break into secular time and transform it.  April 15, as all Americans are quite aware, is tax day.  Those procrastinating souls who have hoped for the return of the Lord before this date are now faced with the reality of secular time.  But in this sacred season of Eastertide, a focus on new life can bring a transformation from fear to faith, from fretting to resting.  Psalm 23 is just the right message for this time.  Yet, because of its familiarity, we might only associate it with funerals and miss its relevance for now.  So, the following is my contemporized version of this most famous of psalms:
Jesus is my pastor, and I lack absolutely nothing because of it.
My merciful overseer is watching me while I rest secure on a nice soft bed of grace;
             he leads me into an unhurried life; he is thawing out my cold anxious soul.
He leads me in all the right ways for the sake of his great name.
Even though I get lost and find myself in a dark alley,
             I really have no fear of evil;
for I know God is with me,
             his Word and Sacrament – they are sufficient to comfort me.
I have a big ol’ appetite and hunger for you, God,
             and you satisfy it,
             even though I have enemies within arm’s length;
you encourage my mind with joyous thoughts,
             so that my heart overflows with hope.
I am quite sure that goodness and mercy will follow me for a lifetime,
             and I will live in peace despite any adverse circumstances my whole life long.

Psalm 121

            This is one of my favorites in the entire psalter.  It is a beautiful majestic psalm which can be used for any and every occasion.  So, I often use it when making hospital visits, counseling a wide array of situations, and for my own personal edification.  It seems to me that one cannot possibly overuse this psalm.  The psalm was originally one used for ascending the hill into Jerusalem.  In other words, it anticipates meeting with God.  Just like a lover who looks forward to meeting his beloved and thinking about how wonderful she is, so the psalmist looks with adoring affection on the God he is about to encounter.
 
            The psalm is rich with a theology of grace, watch care, and loving attention.  This is a God who is powerful and merciful, a God able to help and desiring to do so.  In a world that seems so often distant and unaffected by the divine, this is a psalm to repeat over and over again in every situation of life so that the truth of the Lord is engrafted deep into the soul.  In each unwanted circumstance the psalm can be spontaneously used as an immediate prayer, and with every anticipated event it can provide the words to address the most pressing of needs.  Let the words resonate within you as people created in the image of God, connecting with him on both the cerebral and visceral levels of your life:
 
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

 

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.” (ESV)