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Stay Safe

April 13, 2020

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. . . You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 1; 11).

The mantra of these quarantined times is “Stay safe.”  We hear it from and say it to friends in person, on the phone, and at the end of face-time sessions and zoom conferences.  We write it in hand-written and emailed notes and cards, and in text messages.  Stay safe.  We hear it on every news program and read it in newspapers.  Until the coronavirus pandemic hit, we hardly ever heard someone say “Stay Safe.”  Safety is something that we in the United States hadn’t thought about on an hourly or daily basis—as we have in recent weeks.  On occasion we said “stay safe” to a child or other family member or friend when concerned about his or her safety.

For the most part, we think of our country as a safe place compared to many parts of the world.  At least we did before 9/11 and before COVID-19 struck.   And yet, here we are, sequestered in our homes afraid to go out.  In fact, many of us have been ordered to stay home. And while staying home baking bread, attending zoom and telephone conferences, working at home, cleaning closets, and wearing face masks when we go out is not like being in a war zone, we’ve been cautioned that if we don’t follow the rules, many will die.  Already many more have died in the United States from COVID-19 than were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As I meditated a few days ago on Psalm 16 for Easter Sunday, I realized how well it dovetailed with next Sunday’s Scripture texts.[1]  In the Easter Sunday psalm, we find that like us, David pleaded with God to keep him safe—that he was taking refuge in God, as so many have during these trying weeks:  “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. . . You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 1; 11).  We have turned to God more frequently in recent weeks, asking him to keep us and our loved ones safe, to give us protection and refuge from the invisible killer that lurks beyond the walls of our homes.  We ask God to direct us to the path he wants us to take during these challenging times, and to replace our fears with his peace and joy.

But where does our confidence to rely on God, to seek refuge in him come from?  How can we trust that God cares about us or about our safety?  We find that answer in the Resurrection, and during the 40 days that Jesus walked the earth after he rose from the dead.  John, the only disciple who had not fled when Jesus was crucified, reported, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20: 19-20).

The Resurrection was proof positive that Jesus was who he said he was—the Christ, the Son of God.[2]  Our confidence in turning to God to ask for his protection, to ask that he help get us through these difficult times comes from the fact that we know that he is the everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present, creator of the universe.  We know this because he was restored to life after he was killed.  We know this because he appeared to many witnesses during the 40 days he walked on earth after he was resurrected. We know this because when we walk with him, he is with us, helping us along, giving us encouragement when we read his words and when we talk to him.

Believers are not exempt from illness, heartache, and challenges of every kind.  But believers know that God is with them as they ford their way through tough times. The coronavirus pandemic the world is currently facing has come home to America—to New York, to Los Angeles, to Kansas, to Ohio, to your community and to mine.  It is not a far-off threat in China or the Middle East.  It is here; it is now.  It affects you and it affects me and our families. Where can we turn?  Only to the everlasting almighty creator of the universe.

In his speech before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, Peter confirmed why we can have complete confidence in Christ as our Lord and Savior: “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5: 30-32).  We know that the creator, the everlasting God of the universe will be with us no matter what happens, and that when we leave this earth, we will be enveloped in the warmth of his love, and will experience joy beyond anything we ever experienced during our earthly lives.

The apostles’ lives were at stake while they were preaching in the Temple after the Resurrection.  The priests who were present when Peter gave his speech wanted to kill them, but Gamaliel, a highly respected Pharisee, stepped in and cautioned against killing them.  So instead, “They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go” (Acts 5: 40).  Of course, the apostles immediately disobeyed the order and continued to preach and teach that Jesus was the real deal—the Christ, our Savior.

In fact, the apostles considered it a privilege to have suffered on account of preaching the Good News: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5: 41-42).

Good news indeed. The confidence we have in God as Lord of all, gives us ample reason to praise him continually for his creation and for all that he has done for us.  In the words of the psalmist: “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars; Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created and he established them for ever and ever—he issued a decree that will never pass away” (Psalm 148: 1-6).

Stay safe. Stay home. Stay healthy. And stay hopeful, having full confidence in God on whom we can rely and trust.

Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank and praise you for sacrificing your Son for us and we rejoice in his Resurrection and for the many eyewitness accounts left by those who interacted with him after the Resurrection.  It is the eyewitness evidence of the Resurrection that gives us the confidence to boldly trust and rely on you during these challenging times. Give us strength and guide us in the uncertain times ahead. Amen

[1] The Scripture texts for the Second Week of Easter are Acts 5:29-42; Psalm 148;  1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31.

[2] Jesus referenced his divinity several times during his ministry. One such time occurred during his “trial” before the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas asked Jesus, “’Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’ ” (Mark 14:61-62 NIV).

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