3/19 Evening Prayer
Welcome everyone, to Thursday evening prayer in Lent. We are keeping it simple today, sharing a scripture, message and song. In the coming days and weeks, you can expect expanded content, including pre-recorded and live streaming options, as we familiarize ourselves and experiment with the technology available. I hope you’ll let us know what works for you, and keep in touch with us via phone, email and text. We are here for you.
The scripture selected for today is Psalm 91.
Where do you feel most safe?
Tucked away under the covers of your bed?
In the arms of a parent or lover?
Doing a familiar activity, or snuggled in your favorite chair?
This psalm describes a safe place of our Jewish forbears—the temple. The temple was indeed a place where people could seek protection from persecutors, much like churches can provide sanctuary today to those who are targets of violence or weary from the stresses of life. In addition, the temple as a safe place was built into its architecture: The inner sanctuary of the temple had two carved cherubim on either side of the Holy of Holies. The cherubim were God’s winged heavenly attendants, here spreading their wings in protection, like a mother bird spreads her wings over her young.
It’s a beautiful image of care and safety, one that we could use right now. For many of us feel uncentered, uncertain, without the usual routines of life that give us sense of normalcy. Some of us feel especially vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, worries about job loss and financial stability, or concerns for family members. Some are health care professionals, public health workers, and others who put themselves at risk to care for others. Some are leaders bear responsibility for keeping others safe. In all these situations, it is easy to forget where we find true security. Like the people of Israel, our security is in God. And like the psalmist says so eloquently, no snare, no illness, no enemy, no fear can get the best of us, for we find refuge in God. The angels of God bear us up. God protects those who know God’s name. God answers them in trouble, and provides rescue. We are not alone.
Ironically this psalm is thought to be a liturgy—a worship psalm. At a time when we cannot get into our worship space safely, the image of God’s sanctuary as protection is especially poignant. We really would like to be together here, in this space. But this psalm serves as a reminder that God’s protection is larger than the temple. The image of the cherubim’s wings really points to God’s care which arches over us all, no matter where we are or what challenges we face.
The famous hymn Eagle’s Wings is based on this text of Psalm 91. It combines the words of this psalm with the image of God as eagle from Isaiah 40 who bears the young up, resting them on the top her wings. We can take this image with us as we go about our lives in amended form this week, as we connect to others virtually, and as we connect to God in prayer. And we can keep this image of God as eagle with us, whose wings of protection span over us and those for whom we pray. Here is a link to this hymn if you’d like to hear it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvpjxfWrjzY.
No matter if you hear this song in your memory or on YouTube, I invite you to remember whatever befalls you, are in God loving care, underneath God’s wings. Amen.