Wednesday of Pentecost 19 – Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

From his hospital room we could see Mt. Hood looming over the Portland metro area. It was a crystal-clear day, so the lines of snow and rock were sharply defined. Portland is built on the flanks of a rather large and not entirely dormant volcano. I used to remind my students of that whenever they were tempted, as we all are, to write divine justice instead of divine mercy into their theology papers. Would they be so glib about justice when they remembered the many sins of our city and the immediate expediency of a massive volcano nearby. Have you ever heard about Pompeii?

This day as we looked out the window, we were lifting our eyes to the hills and looking for help, mercy, and rescue. We remembered the last words of this Psalm which we speak at baptisms. He had been baptized and God had made him this promise: The LORD will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and even forever more. He will keep your life.

My friend was in some pain, pain which the drugs did not entirely stop. Or perhaps he did not want to be so drugged. He longed for his Keeper, his shade on the right hand who would not allow sun or moon to strike him. He had that Keeper. His Keeper did not sleep, never took a break, needed no break. His Keeper is the eternal God.A few days later I sat in that room and prayed with his family in the presence of the body of their husband and father. He had died. But this was not a failure of his Keeper, far from it. The LORD had watched his final going out and his entrance into heavenly bliss, just has he had watched over his first day of kindergarten, his wedding day, his retirement party, and every day of His servant’s life. He had made a promise in that baptismal water. We looked to the hills and found the mercy we needed. It was always there.

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