Wednesday, Pentecost 16 – Psalm 116:1-9

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I had just finished leading the chapel service for the parochial school where my wife taught in Murray, Utah. It was an 18-mile drive back to my office, most of it on the busy I-15 freeway. Like many cities, people always drove too fast and too closely together. Not far into my journey a fireball erupted in the oncoming lanes of traffic across the interstate’s median. A young woman, later analysis would never understand why, had suddenly veered into the undercarriage of a semi-trailer, causing the explosion that I saw. This then was followed by a cascade of accidents as cars were either directly impacted or were swerving to avoid the first accident. Multiple people died that day. I can close my eyes and still see that fireball erupting into the sky. It was very much like the special effects in a film, only this time it was not entertaining.

I was in the middle lane of traffic heading the other way. The press of cars simply carried me past this grisly scene. I remember seeing men and women rushing to twisted cars to help people. I wanted to join them, but I could not. Soon I was carried north and away, but that scene has never really left me.

The snares of death encompassed the psalmist in this psalm. He suffered distress and anguish. He cried out to the LORD: Deliver my soul! The rest of the psalm involves the Psalmist praising God for hearing and answering that prayer. The LORD preserves the simple. When I was brought low, he delivered me. Return to your rest, O my soul! The LORD has dealt bountifully with you. I walk before the LORD in the land of the living. He has delivered my soul from death. This psalm frequently is on my lips in some form as I close the door on my car after a journey. Every day he delivers my feet from stumbling, my eyes from tears, and my soul from death. One day I will die, but even on that day, he will deliver me from death again and I will walk forever in the land of the living.

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