Daily Lenten Devotional – April 8, 2020

To the Church in Exile, 
The peace of Christ be with you. Our lectionary reading is from Psalm 147:

1   Praise the Lord!  How good it is to sing praises to our God;
          for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2   The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
          he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3   He heals the brokenhearted,
          and binds up their wounds….
6   The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
          he casts the wicked to the ground….
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
          nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
          in those who hope in his steadfast love.

This psalm seems so appropriate for this Holy Week. We remember a wounded and brokenhearted Jesus suffering as an outcast beyond the walls of Jerusalem. He was on that hill and was killed because of the way he lived, the way he embodied the Rule of God, God’s Kingdom. It was just too much for the Roman and Jewish powers of Jerusalem; they couldn’t tolerate it. His tenacious loyalty to the way God wants us to live was even unbearable for his closest friends as they abandoned him to his demise.

Praise the Lord!  How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious.”  It is odd to offer praise at the midpoint of Holy Week. But I bring up these praise verses, not as a premature gift of Easter, but as a real offering of worship to God for how Jesus’ journey to the cross so powerfully schools us in God’s way of moving. The incarnate God, indeed, is the one who demonstrates an ultimate solidarity with those on the margins, those outside the city gates: the outcasts, the brokenhearted, the wounded, and the downtrodden (vs 2-6). Praise the Lord, for being that kind of God.

The psalm offers an invitation to a certain discipleship posture, a way of delighting the Lord. But first the psalmist reminds us of what doesn’t make the cut for things that delight the Lord:
                  He’s not impressed with horsepower;
                        the size of our muscles means little to him. (The Message)

That’s a perfect reminder in this COVID-19 Lent, this “sequester-at-home” Holy Week. Personally, I just don’t have the same horsepower that Holy Week usually brings to me in my work. And speed?  Has anyone been able to pedal with their top gear the past weeks? Honestly, it has not been an impressive month for me on a lot of fronts. What a gift this psalm is by reminding me that the speed and muscle is not what impresses my God at all. No, his delight is elsewhere:
                  the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
                        in those who hope in his steadfast love.

I can do that. I can fear the Lord, which is fear without the scary stuff, yet with all the mystery and unknowing still intact. And the best gift of the entire psalm, I can wait. Hope and wait are the same word here, but this week I like the translation “wait.” Sometimes what I can manage doesn’t feel like hope. “Hope” has a ring of positiveness and light. Let’s face it; times are dark. Hope is illusive, but waiting seems within reach. And to think that God treasures my waiting more than my efficiency and effectiveness is like a cool glass of lemonade at the end of a dry, hot day.  

Simone Weil once said, “We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them, but by waiting for them.” Quit seeking to impress the Almighty. Wait for God’s love; that gives God pleasure.

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Peace in Christ, 


Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11