Put your hope in God

Today’s meditation from Rev Barbara Chandler currently working with Covid-19 patients in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.

Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember,  as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?’
10 As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

The manner in which we are preparing for Easter, the manner in which we live our every- day lives is a world away from how we prepared for and celebrated Christmas. Do you remember the days in which you could meet for coffee, wander into the supermarket without the slightest concern that there might not be any toilet rolls? The queues at checkouts were annoying because it was crowded and you would jostle against other people!

We now live in an alien world and connecting via the internet is good, but it is not the “real thing”. It feels as if we have already been in this strange land for years and yet it is only a couple of weeks and it will not last for ever, but it may seem at times to be never ending.

The psalmist recognised the longing of the soul to feel “at home” again. We don’t feel at home in this internet-based community and that in turn can lead us to ask, ‘how can I meet with God’.

Holy week would have brought us together to walk, as a family, the journey of Christ to the cross, supporting each other through our reflections at evening prayer, through the Good Friday services and into the joy and celebration of Easter Sunday. We will make this journey together, but as a dispersed family. As we try and adjust to this strange land we may cry out with the psalmist in verse 2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God”. Similar words cry out in Psalm 137, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” In addition to our own lament we may face questions from others, “Where is your God” verse 3 and 10. Where is God when the hospital fills and people are frightened. Where is God when relatives are turned away and told to remain at home. Where is God when a staff member is exhausted and the tears come. Where is God when the longing to just meet with someone face to face is a physical pain.

Two thousand years ago where was God as people turned from the law of love, to paths of cruelty, greed, self-interest and pride? God was in Jesus, walking the path to the cross, bearing all that was wrong and redeeming the world. God was, and is, in the midst of the mess.

Today God is in the hands of the health workers, clad in gowns and masks looking anything but human and yet a gloved hand gently squeezes the hand of frail and frightened patient and says “you are safe, I am here with you, we won’t leave you on your own”. God is there as medication is discussed, “how can we make this person comfortable and allay their fears”. God is there in the words of comfort given to relatives over the phone. God is there as a colleague seeing someone at the point of exhaustion says, “when did you have a break, come and have a cup of tea”. Acts of compassion that are not text book management of covid infections abound and each act of compassion is an act of love, an act in which as a Christian I see the work of the Spirit, the love of God. Northumbria Community morning prayer includes the plea, “…be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.” We are all made in the image of God and within each person, God is there, perhaps not recognised, but nevertheless the spring-water of the soul longs to flow forth. Kindness and goodness, fruits of the Spirit are bursting forth everywhere. Look at the dedication of all the shop workers, delivery drivers, police, fire service, the kindness of neighbours, of young people, the list could go on and on.

And so like the psalmist who asks, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Can we reply “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

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