God’s salvation after testing

Posted Apr 14, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 66:1-12

1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth!
2 Sing praises to the glory of God’s name!
Make glorious his praise!
3 Say to God:
“How awesome are your works!
Because of your great strength,
your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you,
sings praises to you,
sings praises to your name!” Selah
5 Come and see God’s deeds;
his works for human beings are awesome:
6 He turned the sea into dry land
so they could cross the river on foot.
Right there we rejoiced in him!
7 God rules with power forever;
keeps a good eye on the nations.
So don’t let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
8 All you nations, bless our God!
Let the sound of his praise be heard!
9 God preserved us among the living;
he didn’t let our feet slip a bit.
10 But you, God, have tested us—
you’ve refined us like silver,
11 trapped us in a net,
laid burdens on our backs,
12 let other people run right over our heads—
we’ve been through fire and water.
But you brought us out to freedom!

Reflection Questions

Scholar John Goldingay wrote that this psalm “issues from a time when [Israel] has come out the other side and is flourishing. It can now look back and see that it was being tested or refined. Such a crisis shows whom you can really trust, where your security lies, and whom you recognize to be in control of the world. Crises reveal character.”* We aren’t fully on the other side of the coronavirus crisis, but we at least hope the other side is in sight, so this psalm can speak to us.

  • In what ways is a crisis caused by an unthinking virus (even though it may feel malicious or intentional) different from Israel’s crisis when very deliberately enslaved by an Egyptian king who feared foreigners (cf. Exodus 1:8-14)? In what ways has the pandemic crisis had similar effects on your life as if it had been the results of human malice and evil?
  • What lessons do you believe you’ve learned (if any) during the last year about “whom you can really trust, where your security lies, and whom you recognize to be in control of the world”? Do any of your previous answers to those questions seem more hollow or inadequate to you now? In the wake of this testing, refining time, how would you now define where your security lies?

Prayer

Lord God, many times I wished you’d just wave a magic wand and make the virus go away. But you don’t quite work that way—yet you work. Help me learn the lessons you want to teach me as we emerge from this pandemic. Amen.


* John Goldingay, Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1–72. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, p. 202.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Pastor Adam Hamilton’s current sermon series is “Beginning Anew After the Pandemic.” The pandemic has forced us to let go of routines, patterns of work, school, daily life. In part, this year has been a time of stripping away of the familiar, the secure. And like the Israelites freed from bondage in Egypt only to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, this pandemic year has felt like wilderness for many of us. Walking through the unknown with an unpredictable future, unsure where the dangers lie and no map for guidance.

For me personally, my wilderness has been the journey with my husband through his dementia, moving him into memory care, then unable to go into the facility due to COVID rules. Now, finally able to go inside and hold his hand, he can no longer recognize my face, voice or name. I’m walking through the unknown with no map or predictable sense of what will happen next.

This “in-between time” can be fertile. Anthropologist Claude Levi-Straus called it the “liminal phase.” Former ways of life no longer work. New ways of life are not yet established. In liminality we are the most open, most available to what God might be up to. Here, before new routines take root, before things become fixed again into new patterns, we are beginners.

This can be a great gift. Being a beginner means knowing that we don’t know. Beginners do not live in the illusion that we have it all figured out. That makes us more attentive than ever. In liminality we are returned to a state of watchfulness, aware of our ignorance. Here we can be eager to learn, trusting in the One Who Calls us forward, to begin anew.

As I walk with Perry through this time of loss and stripping away, there is also, at least sometimes, a sense of wonder. I am a beginner, knowing that I don’t know. I am eager to learn from the Holy Love that holds our lives. I gaze in awe and wonder at the beauty and mystery of life that is both fragile and whole.

Perhaps being a beginner is, in part, what Jesus had in mind when he said “You must become like little children” (Matthew 18:3), a spiritual posture, a way of being in relationship to God and the world.

Today, let’s be beginners together. Let’s begin anew.

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