I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
We read these words at baptisms and funerals, especially those last two verses. Those two events are part and parcel of any pastor’s life. He pours the water of life over the heads of human beings, especially children and reiterates this promise made to us all. God commits Himself to us. At funerals the preacher says it again, but this time in the confidence that the promise is kept and the Lord has watched over this person’s departure from this life and entrance into heavenly glory.
It so happens that as I write these words I am preparing for a baptism and a funeral in close proximity to each other. Tomorrow morning I shall hold a young life in my hands. In less than a week I will join my parish in putting our arms around a woman who grieves her husband. Both days shall be marked by these words. Our hope for this young life will be shaped by this promise. Our grief at the death of a husband, father, brother, and friend will be encompassed in a promise of eternal life and God’s careful attentiveness to this promise. This season of Lent brings us back to the very essence of our faith. We need this God who watches over our comings and goings now and forever more. I may be able to get out the door to the grocery or even to work, but that going out and coming of death and eternal life is utterly beyond my ability to control or direct. I need the Lord to watch, both in the mundane comings and goings of life, but also in the great exit and entrance to come.