Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
“I will rescue them...on a day of clouds and darkness...”
When thunder rumbles I often think of my grandmother’s prescription for skittish toddlers. I would flee to her for comfort, and she would take me into her big bed and assure me that this was the safest place to be when it stormed. Now I have this bed as my own, and when the heavens rage, somehow it still seems to be the safest place!
I had prepared my sermon for last Sunday well before the storms early that morning that took three lives in neighboring Benton and Lafayette counties. I had planned to preach on Christ’s words, “I am the Good Shepherd,” from the 10th chapter of John’s gospel, and as an Old Testament lesson I took Ezekiel’s rebuke of the evil shepherds, found in chapter 34 of his prophecy.
As I read that lesson, I was struck in a very different way by the words of the twelfth verse of that chapter: “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
That is the Lord speaking, and I saw it as a comfort for those who have been called to endure so much suffering and dislocation in our midst. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep.
My grandfather was a good psychologist when it came to dealing with thunder. I recall being at my grandparents’ home in Memphis during a series of summer storms. One came in the middle of the night. This was in the days before air conditioning, and Grandfather gathered me up on his shoulder, and the two of us went all over that big house and closed all the windows.
Then, even though it was well past midnight, we went outside and sat on the wisteria-covered front porch and watched the lightening, and talked about its power and how beautiful it could be.
Then as the rain let up, I sat transfixed as the water cascaded down the gutters, disappearing through the storm drains further down the street.
It is typical for children to be frightened of storms and to run to our elders for comfort. A sign of growing up is being able to endure the thunder without fleeing to someone for protection. We realize we are growing old when we realize that there is no one to gather us up, even if we feel afraid.
I think it is at this point that we finally understand what the 23rd Psalm is talking about. Or Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Perhaps Psalm 73 sums it best: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.”
I am glad for comforting memories of loving grandparents. But I am even more grateful for the compassion of a loving God.
I know that many in our community instinctively sense the same solace, and I pray God to bring this assurance to their minds just now. This knowledge makes it possible to bear up under a great deal.
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