OHIO VALLEY DISTRICT
This week I have been reading and praying Psalm 121. It is a brilliant and familiar Psalm of Ascent. Psalms of Ascent are somewhat brief, and it is thought that they were sung by the faithful journeying to Jerusalem for holy festivals. Jerusalem sits on Mount Zion and the Temple sat on what is called the Temple Mount. As the pilgrims walked, sang, and prayed the Psalms their eyes would be drawn up to the beauty of the Temple and the end of their journey. Security, sustenance, rest, and the promise of holy celebration would come into sight.
This journey of the faithful, or pilgrimage, was not easy in the best of times. During difficult times the journey was hard, dangerous, and costly. Every journey of faithful people pursuing God leave the pilgrim vulnerable and in uncertain circumstances.
Psalm 121 has been described as a song of faith in God, a song of trust in God’s protection, and has served as an anchor in turbulent moments of life. All three are true and right. I recall burying my Uncle many years ago on O’Dell’s Nob. It was the high point of the surrounding country. I still remember reading Psalm 121 and experiencing the calm, comforting Presence of God. The Scripture and the beauty of the hills all about us acted to bring the Risen Savior close to us in a time of loss and grief.
Psalm 121 has four parts. The first part teaches the reader and singer that help comes from the LORD who created all that exists. There is more help available to us that what we contrive for ourselves or comes from other humans. There is Divine help available! The second part teaches that God never sleeps or grows weary of watching over us. All other helpers fail this test. The third part drives home the point of how Superior Divine Help is. Night and Day come and go, but neither will strike us. God’s watch is without pause or break. The fourth part reveals that God keeps us from evil, keeps under watch our lives. The wonderful phrase, “God will keep our going out and coming in,” is found here. The watch is now and forevermore.
It is a great comfort to know such a One, the Almighty has such love and care for us! Not a moment passes by without God standing at hand ready and able to assist, care for, and protect us.
We live in a time of “coming in.” We have spent quite a bit of time sheltering in place due to COVID-19. Social distancing is becoming a bit of a bother. I am weary of it. In the past six weeks we have learned of, and sometimes experienced, the passing of 57,000 fellow citizens. Had we not sheltered in place it is likely the number of deaths would be much higher. We are now thinking about re-opening the country. This is difficult due to the many complexities involved. A one size fits all plan is impossible. What might work in rural areas would never work in cities. Within cities and rural areas there are circumstances that require different ways of opening. Even among the churches in the Ohio Valley different ways of reopening will be required. Some congregations worship with 5 to 10 people. Some congregations worship with 300+. The same plan will not work for every church. For now, we remain committed to postponing worship until the medical and science experts provide the information and plan to begin worship again. So let’s plan for, long for, sing and pray for, the day when we can safely worship together in person. Please take a moment to watch the Bishop’s video from April 29 about looking forward to reopening, even if it is too soon to give a specific date. The video is available on the Conference website and Facebook page.
I confess to you the desire to go out and about right now. I am weary of social distancing. But I will not go out if that means endangering you, my family, even strangers I don’t know. I trust fully that God watches over you and me, but I will not put the Lord to the test by acting out my selfish desire and go out. Nor will I assert my personal civil rights, if that endangers others. This is not a matter of civil rights. It is a matter of life and death. It is not a denial or loss of civil rights to act in a socially responsible manner in order to save lives.
If I had my way, 57,000 people would still be alive, the economy would be healthy and robust, and our sanctuaries would be full of people singing praises to the Risen Savior! If I had my way, we would reopen everything tomorrow, we would greet each other with hand-shakes and hugs, and we would gather by the thousands to celebrate life. If I had my way, we would stop using the pandemic as means of political attack, we would stop pointing the finger of blame at one another, and we would take the time to pray for one another in deep compassion.
In the past several days I have heard that our circumstances are the fault of: China, the Democratic party, the Republican party, the wealthy, Bill Gates, a fellow District Supt., President Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Bishop Malone, and a wide range of others. We really know how to blame others for whatever is wrong! The best scientific minds, helped by the best medical minds, (yes experts!) have determined that Covid-19 is a naturally occurring virus that is spreading around the globe. (I know this is hard for you conspiracy theorists.)
What if we simply turn to God and ask for some help, some comfort, and guidance on how to respond in a FAITHFUL manner. This journey is dangerous and uncertain right now. So let us… Lift up our eyes unto the hills!
Ohio Valley District Office:
Rev. Bruce Hitchcock
352 Canton Rd.
Wintersville, OH 43953
Phone: (740) 264-1601
Fax: (740) 264-1972
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
(Summer Hours beginning June 21
Monday through Thursday
8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m
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