The Judaeo-Christian faith is not geared to contemplation, but experience. It is a faith that empowers be-cause it is personal. In Psalm 124 the writer looks at life and sighs in relief, “If the Lord had not been on our side.” Again, in the pattern of Hebrew poets, he repeats, “If the Lord had not been on our side,” and then he describes the rigors and dangers of his journey.
Augustine prayed for deliverance from “secret sins”. The writer of this Psalm speaks of militant evil deter-mined to destroy God’s people. We who follow and obey the Risen One know who guides and preserves us. We rejoice because we know who our helper is. In the church that I grew up in, prayer and praise worship were staples. And the older saints often quoted Psalm 124 to describe their lives.
Isaiah 40 speaks of the faithful as a “voice crying in the wilderness.” Indeed, the world is full of terror and tyranny. Violence is a constant. Greed and hatred are incubated even within religious establishments. Labor and management, haves and have-nots, people of color and those without color, males and females, and young and old are at each other’s throats.
Most of my ministry was focused toward two things: teaching people who believed they were beleaguered not to hate, but love; and, equipping them for what Howard Thurman called the “strange freedom” we find in Christ Jesus to live unencumbered lives.
I blanch when anyone speaks of the “simple gospel.” Looking at life and God in a balanced and responsible way is never simple. Facing failure, hurt, disappointment, treason we have played on God, and arrogant maneuvers we devise to avoid truth denies our sin and shallowness.
What am I most assured of? By God’s grace and mercy I have escaped and am now in the process of being saved. And I cannot cease praising God. I wonder what flood of emotion swept over the Pentecost crowd after their soul-shaking experience? Maybe they could say nothing more than, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
- James Scott
Calvary Baptist Church of Springfield and their interim pastor Jim Dowse
First Baptist Church of Starksboro and their pastor Larry Detweiler
Humility, so that God can lift us up