Kept “in the midst of it” – the homily from last Wednesday’s Eucharist
Readings: Psalm 121; Isa. 49:1-7; Gal 2:15-21; Mark 6:13-29
Today* marks the 6th day of the new administration under Trump. It is the second day of the annual audit at my office.And we’re in the midst of the sometimes dreary days of midwinter; although, today offers a welcome (warm and bright) reprieve.
As we begin let’s first pause to take in the scene, a panorama of your landscape: what day is today…for you? What are you “in the midst of”? Where are your relationships feeling the squeeze? What pressures are you navigating at work or at home? Perhaps your 3 weeks into sleepless nights with a baby or 3 days into potty-training a toddler. You may need to call the plumber because of a shower leak (which just happened to me this morning). Or you’re facing a big deadline or meeting. On the other hand, maybe you’re having a day of reprieve and your face is turned toward the warmth of the sunshine.
Take a moment. Steady. * Scan the landscape. * Click. * Take a snapshot in your mind’s eye.
It is “in the midst of it” –from that landscape– that the steady-ing hand of the Lord keeps us! Let’s join the Psalmist to notice God’s keeping power at work.
The writer of Psalm 121 captures these promises. We are kept people–no matter the circumstances or uncertainties; no matter what day it is. Six times the Psalmist speaks of the Lord’s keeping power.
He keeps us from being struck by the sun or the moon—by those things totally outside our control. We can’t control the power of the sun (though we might try with sunblock) or the pull of the moon on our tides. Those pressures that abound in our worlds, but cannot be managed by good habits or positive thinking or even brilliant resistance or protesting. There are so many things out of our control. Our good Father steadies not only our environment, but our hearts–our very life.
He is the Keeper. It’s the title given to the Lord in the psalm. He has the power to do it, to keep us from faltering in our faith. And God does it very well—even through the night—He hides us. In those places where our energy is spent and we have nothing left, where our best ideas have run out, where we’re sick, and at the end of the day, when we’re tired.
He also keeps us in the places where we have great hope and expectation for the future. In places of joy, we still need our good Father’s keeping power, to guard our hearts and minds. So, our appetites and attentions don’t wander. So, our orientation remains one of trust and submission to the wisdom of the Spirit and obedience to God’s good laws. He keeps us from ALL evil.
To help us understand our sense of this word “keep,” I took a peek at the etymology of the word (as any former English Major worth their salt would do). Interestingly, keep was also used as a noun in the middle ages, referring to the “innermost stronghold or central tower of a castle.” This calls to mind a sense of protection, preservation, and provision for our hearts and minds–our most vulnerable places. This “inner keeping” orients us, so we can lift our eyes to the hills, that secure spot, where our help comes from…
It’s in these days here, at the beginning of 2017, “in the midst of it”, when we face very real places of chagrin and uncertainty. And yet Christ… We are kept, established, held secure through Christ. God the Father, in His great promises to Israel, foretold of his keeping of Christ, who in His resurrection, demonstrated that even with the destruction of our bodies—John’s head on a platter—our hope would not be at an end. We are kept for eternal life…Isaiah’s prophecy continues from the end of our reading to speak of Israel’s restoration:
Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land…”
We are in that day of salvation now. Christ has been given to us. He has given a new convent to those who fear God. He is both our strength and our song. He is our keeper.
In our liturgy, one of the blessings we receive after corporate confession, our priest says:
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins
through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in
eternal life. Amen.
Indeed, may he strengthen and keep us by His tender mercies today and always…
Invitation to pray:
Father God, we need your safe keeping. As your children, fear of what we face can taunt our hearts. But you are our steadfast help to keep our feet firm.
As we lift our eyes, we look to you, the one who made the heaven and the earth. Help us. Keep us. Steady our stance. Turn your face towards us. May we experience your covering and keeping power “in the midst.”
Keep those suffering and in need of your healing touch.
Keep those in need of your protection and wisdom.
Keep us from all evil. Keep our life—hidden with Christ in God.
~ Erica Chapman