Nourishment in the Wilderness

run and not be weary

1 Kings 19:1-8 NRSV

Luke 8:26-39 NRSV

Poor Elijah didn’t know if he wanted to live or die. Look at verse 3: “Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life.” Then look at verse 4: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life…”

One verse he wants to live, for he’s running to save his life. And in the very next verse, he prays to God that he might die.

Can you relate? Have you had moments like that?

The good news comes in verse 5: “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him and said: ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”

The good news is that when the journey is too much for us, when we don’t know whether we want to live or die, God comes to us, and gives us the strength we need to make it through.

On this Father’s Day, I am reminded of the words of Jesus when he said: “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? …how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

It was Isaiah who prophesied: “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

The Apostle Paul confidently proclaimed: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

The good news is that when we have those moments when we don’t know if we are going to make it or even if we want to make it, God comes to us, nourishing us with the strength we need to do all things.

Now, before we say: “Amen, let’s sing a hymn, have some communion, and go home happy!” I believe we need to hear a little more.

When we read the Bible, study the Bible, interpret the Bible, context is everything. It is a bad practice, and it can be right down dangerous, to lift verses out of their contexts.

And people do it all the time, especially with the verses that I just read. I have seen these verses on coffee mugs or desk calendars, as if they were written as promises to help us have a good day at work.

These verses are all over the walls of the YMCA as if they were written to help us have a good work out. As a runner, I have seen them on written on the shirts of other runners during a marathon. “Run and not grow weary – Isaiah 40:31”; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me –  Philippians 4:13”

But when we put these verses in their contexts, we come to understand that when Isaiah was talking about running, he wasn’t talking about running a marathon. When Paul was talking about strength, he wasn’t referring to the bench press. And Elijah was not visited by an angel with hot fresh baked bread and a cold jar of water, because he had just finished a Tai Chi workout.

I believe our lectionary gospel lesson has something very valuable to teach us about our context. It is from Luke, chapter 8 beginning with verse 26.

It is the story about Jesus confronting a man living with demons who was chained and shackled in a cemetery.

Now, we don’t know why they put chains on that man and forced him to live among the dead. But I believe we could take some pretty good guesses. Perhaps he had a different skin color than most people in his town. Maybe he practiced some kind of minority religion. Could it be that he spoke a foreign language? Could it be that he was mentally ill? Might it be that he was gay?

Whatever the reason, it is obvious to me that the chaining of this man, the oppression of this man, the dehumanizing treatment of this man as if he did not even exist among the living, shackling him in a graveyard, is the true demonic evil in this story.

And notice what happens when Jesus liberates this man (verse 37). When they find the man is set free, do they all fall down and worship Jesus? Do they make a commitment to follow Jesus? No, all the people, “all the people in the surrounding country beg Jesus to leave their presence.”

It is very important to remember that when Paul proclaimed the gospel for not only the Jews, but also for the Gentiles; when he baptized a woman named Lydia and others discovered his friend Philip baptized an Ethiopian Eunuch; when Paul, like Jesus, met people where they were, ate what they ate, drank what they drank; when he said things as audacious as in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus, the people did not vote him Citizen of the Year.

Thus, when Paul penned those words: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” he wasn’t talking about completing a “couch to 5k program.” He wasn’t talking about having a good day at work or even working out some personal problems. He was talking about keeping the faith in the midst of a persecution that we better believe is coming if we live like Jesus, work like Jesus, and love like Jesus. And he was talking from a prison cell.

For the truth is: whenever we love all people, and teach others to love all people, especially those people who have been degraded, dehumanized, and put away by society, there will always be people in society who will degrade, dehumanize, and try to put us away.

Whenever we oppose bad religion, fight injustice, speak out against hate, and preach the grace of a savior who loved all, died for all, and conquered evil for all, we can expect persecution.

There is a much talk about Christianity being the most persecuted religion in the world today like that is a bad thing. But that type of thinking seems to go against the very words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11).”

I believe the entire biblical witness points out that if we are not being persecuted in this world, then we better question whether or not we fulfilling our mission as people of faith.

The good news is, that the entire biblical witness also promises that when we are persecuted, God shows up. God feeds our bodies, nourishes our souls and gives us the strength we need to see this selfless, sacrificial journey through.

It was in the sermon on the mount that Jesus said that the Father will give his children good things to eat, not so they could live happy and satisfied lives, but after he commanded them: love your enemies, forgive seventy times seven, be light, be kind, don’t judge, turn the other cheek, don’t love money or possessions, go the extra mile and give the shirt off your back. Because Jesus knew that when we do those things, then we better be praying for some strength, because we’re certainly going to need it.

And notice that the angel came to Elijah with a cold jar of water and freshly baked hot bread, not to help him to deal with personal problems, but to climb up on a mountain to continue to stand against bad religion and false prophets.

And Isaiah said that God will renew the strength of God’s people not to deal with the heat and humidity of an Oklahoma summer, but to deal with the heat they will face after they “prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness, and make straight in the desert a highway for our God;” after they “lift up every valley, and make every mountain and hill low;”

God will renew the strength of God’s people after they break the silence and cry out saying that “the word of our God will stand forever.”

God will renew the strength of God’s people after they get up and climb up to “a high mountain and lift up their voice to be the herald of good tidings to all people.”

Isaiah says that when we stand up, and speak up, it is then that the Lord will come and renew our strength. It is then we shall mount up with wings like eagles. We shall run and not be weary. We shall walk and not faint.

The truth is that when we are truly following Jesus, selflessly, and sacrificially carrying our crosses—when we are truly loving our neighbors as ourselves, all of our neighbors—when we unashamedly proclaim the word of God, the gospel of Christ, challenging injustice and speaking against hate—when we do these things, we can always expect some persecution. It can get so bad that we won’t know whether we want to live or die.

The good news is that it is then that we can always expect God to show up. We can expect a tiny sip of water and a bite of bread, or a little cup of juice, and a small cracker, to give us what we need to make it, to keep the faith, to do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

Response to the Orlando Massacre

more love less hate

How do we begin to respond to this act of hate and terrorism against those attending the Pulse Night Club in Orlando Florida?

First, perhaps we might respond in the same way our God responds. I believe we respond by being prayerfully present, not only suffering with those who are injured and weeping with those who have lost loved ones, but also grieving with the larger LGBTQ and Muslim communities who are hurting today in ways few of us can imagine. We respond by standing in mournful solidarity with all people who are hated for their faith, race, gender, economic status, or sexual orientation.

Secondly, I believe we respond by speaking out against the demonic evil that is intensifying in our world today in the form of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and all kinds of hateful bigotry.

May we remember the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who once said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” These words were spoken during another time in our history when the same demonic evil was rising, and a time, according to Dr. King, when many Christians, including pastors, chose to be “cautious” instead of “courageous” by remaining silently “behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”

It is way past time for Christians who believe in love, believe that God is love, believe that Christ exemplified and commanded love, especially towards victims of hate and prejudice— it is past time for Christians who believe that we were created for such love to stand up and speak out for this love.

Name injustice and evil when you see it. Speak truth to power when it’s needed. Show great love even when it’s risky.

It is time to boldly and sacrificially bear witness to a grace that is so radical and a love that is so socially unacceptable that, according to Jesus, it will cause people, especially religious people, perhaps people in our own churches and families, perhaps our customers and clients, our friends and neighbors, to revile us, and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on his account.

It is time for Christians to no longer be ashamed of the gospel of the Christ who loves all and died for all and conquered evil for all.

Lastly, I believe we can respond to this tragedy, by doing what we can, where we can, when we can, in this present climate of hate to oppose any legislation or any political candidate that will not promise to defend and fight for the protection, the liberty and the justice for all people.

And all means all.

And may we fight this good fight fervently, yet kindly; fiercely, yet peaceably- with the certain hope knowing that our Bible, our faith, and even history itself, teaches us that evil will not prevail, hate will not have the final word, and the darkness will not overcome; because in the end, it is love that wins.

Love always wins.

Sinners Welcome

sinners only

Luke 7:38-8:3 NRSV

Our gospel lesson is not only being read in churches all over the world today. It is being lived.

Today, sinners—some sick and tired, some broken and afraid, some young and naïve, some middle-aged and stressed, some old and in pain, and some severely wounded by racism, sexism, ageism, by all kinds of bigotry and evil spirits—today, sinners (look at verse 37) are still “learning” that Jesus is at the table, and they are still coming to worship at his feet.

A known sinner comes to Jesus, perhaps because she had learned the stories of Jesus welcoming and including, defending and saving, forgiving and healing other women who had injured by the evil of this world and counting them among his disciples: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others.

The good news is that Jesus is still at the table today, and Jesus is still working in our world saving and forgiving, welcoming and liberating, and people are still learning about him. They are learning about a grace without limits and a love without conditions, and they are coming. They are coming honestly and openly. They are coming with humility, and they are coming with tears. They are coming saying “yes!” to this Jesus.

They are saying “yes” to this table, to the bread broken and to the cup poured-out. They are saying “yes” to the forgiveness of sin and the deliverance from evil. They are saying “yes” to loving their neighbors as themselves, to treating others how they wish to be treated. They are saying “yes” to fighting the demonic evil that is so much a part of our world today, and they are saying “yes” to welcoming others to the table as they have been welcomed to the table, graciously, lovingly, honestly, openly.

But when the one with religion saw what was going on at the table (see verse 39), “he said to himself,” which probably means he shook his head, or rolled his eyes. When he saw her with all of her sin at the table saying “yes” to Jesus, he said “no!”

The good news is that all over the world today, sinners are coming to the table, and they are coming saying “yes!” to Jesus.

The bad news is that there are people in churches today who are watching this, and they are saying “no!”

Last week, I learned of an Elder who has quit going to his church, because he didn’t like the way some of the new, younger Elders dressed on Sunday morning.

The same week, I learned of a couple leaving a church, because the church had too many of “those people” in it.

This week, I received a Facebook message from a woman who was told by her pastor that she could continue to give her money to the church, attend Sunday School and worship in the church, but she would never be able to serve in any leadership role.

And this week, I met two young women and a young man who told me that they want more than anything else in life to follow Jesus, but when they tried to find a church, it was made very clear to them by the people in the church that they were not welcomed.

Those with sin are saying “yes” to Jesus, and those with religion are shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, and saying “no.”

Jesus responds to the head-shaking and the eye-rolling and he naysayers by telling a story.

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

When they could not pay up, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said, “You have judged rightly.”

Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

In other words, this religious one who says “no” to the sinner who was saying “yes” to Jesus simply did not see himself as a sinner in need of grace. Jesus is saying that the amount of love people give is directly related to the amount of grace they believe they need.

While I was in college, I had the opportunity to serve with the First Baptist Church of Marshville, North Carolina as their Youth Director.

Almost every Sunday, Sam and Sue Goodwin, whose daughter Sally was in the youth group, would invite Lori and me to their home for Sunday dinner. Sam and Sue cared for Sue’s homebound mother who lived with them.

After we had lunch, Lori and I would always go to her room where she was confined to a bed, and visit with her a little before we left.

Right after I graduated from college in 1988, Lori and I were married. Since Lori had one more year in college, I served with that church one more year before moving to Louisville, Kentucky to attend seminary.

I will never forget our final Sunday dinner at the Goodwin home. As was our custom, after dinner, we went to see Sue’s mother. As we walked in her, she asked if she could speak with me privately.

I said, “Of course.”

She then asked me to shut the door and come over and have a seat in the chair beside her bed.

I looked a Lori, shrugged my shoulders and somewhat nervously did what she asked.

She said, “Jarrett, I want you to do me a favor.”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?”

She said, “Before you leave to go to seminary to study to be a preacher, I sure wish you’d marry that girl.”

I said, “Don’t you remember? Lori and I got married last year.”

With a great big sigh, she said, “Oh, I am so relieved. I was so afraid you were going to seminary to live in sin!”

Bless her heart, I am certain, that if she really thought about it, she would have known that there was absolutely nothing I could do, no ceremony in which I could participate, no laws I could abide, and no lifestyle to which could adhere that could ever keep me from living in sin. You can ask my wife. Getting married did not stop me from living in sin!

But thank God, that where my sin is great, God’s grace is greater.

And Jesus says that when we realize this truth, that all of us live in sin and fall short of the glory of God, that all stand in desperate need of God’s grace, then we will instinctively love and accept all sinners who are saying “yes” to Jesus instead of shaking our heads, rolling our eyes, and saying “no.”

And when a church realizes that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace, then that church never only loves a little, grudgingly, reservedly, cautiously, and comfortably. But it becomes a church that always loves a lot, generously, unconditionally, recklessly, and even painfully.

At the end of the service a few weeks ago, I said that people often make the mistake of not joining a church because they feel they are too sinful. They need to get right with themselves, get right with their neighbors, and get right with the Lord, deal with some of this sin in their life, before they join the church.

I said then, and I will say now: “That is the worst reason in the world not to join the church!”

For the only requirement to join the church is the acknowledgement you are a sinner and need Jesus. That’s it. You come just as you are confessing your sins and your need of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. There is no other requirement.

I have also said that, sadly, there are people in some churches who fail to meet this requirement. They simply do not regard themselves as sinners. They don’t need grace, because they feel that they have somehow earned God’s love with right beliefs, right thoughts and right lifestyles. And they believe they are a little bit better than those who have not earned it. Thus they are very quick to judge, criticize or demean anyone who might believe, think, or live differently.

When I my hair was darker and my sermons were crasser, I got into a little trouble one day when I preached a sermon entitled: The Church Is Not for Everyone. I got into trouble because that goes against everything I usually preach. However even today, although my hair is grayer, and I try to be more articulate, I still believe there is an element of truth in that statement: The Church Is Not for Everyone.

For how else does one explain the amount of hateful things that are said and done today in the name of God, or in the name of the Church? How else do you explain the little amount of love that is shared by some churches today?

And how else do you explain that there will be preachers standing in pulpits all over this country this very hour blaming the victims of the evil terrorist attack in Orlando, saying the most hateful, evil things in the name of God.

Obviously, there are people in some churches who simply do not belong, because they fail to meet the only requirement for church membership; that is, confessing that they are sinners in need of God’s grace.

In that sermon, I suggested that it might be a good idea to have a special invitation at the end of the service one day. It will be a special invitation, because instead of inviting people to join the church, people would be invited to leave to leave the church. “Go, get out, and don’t come back until you realize you’re a sinner like the rest of us!”

Sounds harsh I know. But if we did this, maybe the church would love a lot more and hate a lot less.

Thank God, that today here at Central Christian Church, to this table, Jesus invites sinners, all sinners, only sinners. And sinners are coming, saying “yes.” And no one here is saying “no.” For today, the gospel is not only being read in this place, it is being lived. Thanks be to God.

Fear and Compassion

Great sermon from my colleague Rev. Speidel. I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside her at Central Christian Church in Enid.

Where are the Christians?


Luke 7:11-17

One of the ways I try to take care of myself physically and emotionally is by practicing yoga. I used to take yoga classes consistently when I was in college, but have picked it up again in the last few months after about 10 years. The encouragement to start again came from a good friend who moved here, to Enid, and is an instructor.

I am not that fabulous. But I try really hard. I have learned not to concern myself with the advanced yogi in the back row who can throw himself into a handstand whenever he is so moved. I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with taking breaks when needed and sneaking a sip from my water bottle, when my body is saying “that’s about enough of that Shannon, we don’t want to pull EVERY muscle we have”.

In one of our recent classes, our…

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Between the Verses


Psalm 6 NRSV

About one-third of the Psalms are called “Lament Psalms.” I love these Psalms for their sheer honesty. These Psalms are unashamedly real, straight up authentic. They speak to the reality of our pain, frailty, and failures. They also speak to the reality of the pain of our world: the plight of the poor; the despair of the displaced, the evil of war, the scourge of disease, and all kinds of injustices. And they speak of the reality of what sometimes seems like God’s apathy or even absence in this world.

Psalm 10 reads:

1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—

7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;

8 They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding-places they murder the innocent.
Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9   they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

Walter Brueggemann says that the Lament Psalms “break the force of denial” teaching us that the truth of our pain must be told. They teach us the importance of declaring out loud that things are bad. Things in our lives are bad. Things in this world are bad. And even things about our relationship with God are bad. The Psalms teach us to honestly say out loud that when it comes to God, even on our best days, we have our doubts.

However, that is not our tendency. Is it? We have this notion that any amount of crying, complaining, protesting or “lamenting” means that our faith is weak. And to ever doubt God, well, that is simply out of the question!

To be a positive witness to the world to the saving acts of our God, we believe we should always wear a victorious guise. Thus, this morning, there are churches everywhere full of smiling, happy, clappy Christians casually dressed singing simple, repetitive songs devoid of any semblance of reality. And there are churches full of serious, somber Christians in suits and dresses, preachers robed with stoles, monotonously singing the old hymns of faith without any real concern for the suffering of others.

Christians everywhere have a tendency to retreat into sanctuaries and cling to denial, ignoring the suffering of this world. We cover it up with a smile or hide it with our Sunday best. We deceive ourselves by pretending that with our faith everything is good, everything is working; when in fact, everything is far from good, and nothing is actually working. Confession of sin, acknowledgement of pain, and doubting God is something that is done sparingly and always privately, if it is even done at all.

However, the Lament Psalms move us in the opposite direction. They persuade us to not only tell it like it is, but to publically tell it like it is to God.

And these Psalms teach us it this kind of honesty, this kind of truth-telling, that is the only way we can experience new life and salvation.

Those of us who have read the stories of Jesus should not be that surprised. For whenever Jesus encounters people in need whether it is blind people, poor people, or in the case of Jarius’ daughter and Lazarus, dead people, it is always the needy person, or the family of the dead person who summon Jesus to come into their life or into their house. It is always the one who is in great need, the one who is suffering or grieving who takes the initiative to invoke the help of Jesus.

When Bartimaues, the blind beggar, hears that Jesus is passing by, he cries out, over and over, until Jesus hears his lament, a lament that sounds much like a Psalm: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” It is then, and only then, after the man honestly cries out in need to Jesus, publically voices his desire to change, that Jesus stops and heals him.

Psalm 32 speaks clearly about the power of our honest cries. The Psalmist writes: “While I kept silence,” in other words, while I was in denial, while I was pretending to be a happy, clappy person of faith or a stoic, serious religious person, “my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” In other words, when I pretended everything was working, that all was good, my body wasted away.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not hide my iniquity.” I stopped playing religious games, stopped pretending, stopped faking my faith, stopped trying to appear like I had it all together with my fine wool suit and silk tie, or with my long robe and stole. “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (and guess what happened next!), and you came, “and you forgave the guilt of my sin,” the guilt that was eating my life away. “Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you,” fully, sincerely, honestly.

Thus, Psalm 6 is one of my favorite Psalms. For here the Psalmist honestly pours out his heart before God like none other.

1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?
4 Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.

Here the Psalmist tells the truth, the whole truth, to God. There is no holding back, no masking the pain, no masquerading behind a Bible and a hymn book, no pretending to be strong because others will think he is weak. There is no denial. This Psalmist takes the initiative, goes to God, and keeps it very real. And notice what happens next. Look at what happens somewhere between verses seven and eight.

Somewhere between seven and eight, God shows up. New life, inexplicable, yet certain, comes. Easter happens. Pentecost arrives. Blessed assurance, amazing grace, and a peace beyond all understanding are received. Thus in verse eight, the Psalmist confidently continues:

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.

Now, we do not know what exactly happened between verse seven and eight. We just know that something happened and that something was God. Somewhere, somehow, someway, God breathed on the Psalmist new life, inexplicable, yet certain. God came, and God resurrected, restored, and revived. When the Psalmist was honest saying “this is not working,” “this is bad,” God came and worked all things together for good.

Somewhere, somehow, someway between verses seven and eight God showed up. Perhaps through a still small voice. Perhaps through a quiet warmth that mysteriously erased the terror from his bones and soul.

Or perhaps through love expressed by a friend. Perhaps God came through a visit from a concerned neighbor. Perhaps someone cooked supper and brought it over, or simply offered a listening ear or an empathetic embrace. We just know that somewhere between verses seven and eight, God, in some inexplicable yet certain way, came.

I see this all the time in the church. People come to me and tell me that their life is over. Nothing is working. There is no way.  Some are grieving a loss: either a job loss, a lost opportunity or the loss of a loved one. Some are just sick and tired of being sick and tired. They come to me honestly, pouring themselves out. In their life, it is verse 7, and they are languishing.

Then a short time later, I see them again. And suddenly, it is verse 8. They tell me that life has never been better. How losing that job was the very best thing that happened to them. That although they still grieve over the loss of their loved one, God not only brought them great comfort and peace, but God has made them a stronger, better person. They say that although they thought their life was over, they realize that a new life is only just beginning. There is now a way when there was no way.

The good news is that this is how our God loves to work in the world. It is the very nature of God. However, as the Psalters remind us, when we are languishing, if we ever want to experience what is between verses seven and eight, it is up to us to take the initiative. It is up to us to come honestly before God, confess our sins, confess our brokenness, confess our weakness, confess our need of God. It is up to us to tell God the whole truth. And then I promise you, somewhere there between verses seven and eight, God will inexplicably, yet certainly show up.

And as people of faith, when verse 8 comes, I believe God continually calls us to go back to live in between the verses. God calls us to service somewhere in between verses seven and eight keeping our minds and our hearts open to the cries, to the pain, and to the needs of others.

And who knows, even today, you may be that inexplicable, yet certain something that happens for someone living between seven and eight! It may be through preparing a meal, sending a card, making a phone call or making a visit, or by just being present to listen to someone’s cries. God is calling each of us, every person in this room, and God is counting on us to be there for others between the verses, so all of God’s children can get to the verses where they are able to confidently sing:

“The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication. The Lord accepts my prayer.”  “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Amen.