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40

April 24, 2020

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

Today is Day 40. This is a pandemic of biblical proportions.

Forty days and nights of rain. 40 years in the wilderness. 40 days our Lord spent fasting before he was tested. When we see 40 in the Bible, you know things have been going on for a while.

Sadly, the suffering that will be inflicted by the current crisis may also begin to rival that of the worst Old Testament plagues. Beyond the challenges in my household, there are millions who are enduring this time in squalid conditions. Billions whose existence was already hanging by a thread even before this happened. What destruction will be wrought by this plague?

For me, the number 40 stirs memories of of my teenage years. I delivered the Post-Crescent to about 50 homes in Appleton, WI, listening to music on my Walkman as I walked my route. More often than not, I listened to U2. My earnings were eaten up replacing worn-out cassettes of WarThe Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree. Through U2, I developed an affinity for Psalm 40, the words of which provide the lyrics for 1983’s “40.”

I waited patiently for the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry / He brought me up out of the pit / Out of the mire and clay.

And then:

I will sing, sing a new song.

I chose Psalm 40:3 as my Confirmation verse, a reminder that deliverance comes from the Lord; that joy follows suffering; that the Lord will not forget us; that songs of praise will rise again.

I’ve always wondered if this psalm was numbered as the fortieth as a reminder of God’s response to those long stretches of suffering and wandering. God’s response is one of biblical proportions. This phrase usually refers to something especially bad, but one wonders why. The arc of the biblical narrative is bent relentlessly toward grace. That is God’s response to our wandering, our suffering, our pain.

In Christ, God has descended into the miry bog of sin and death. Through Christ, God has set our feet upon solid ground once more.

“40” ends with the echo: “How long?” The implication is twofold. First, yes, we don’t know how long this season will last. But second, we marvel at how long we will get to sing this song of praise to God.

We hit 40 today. With feet set upon the solid rock of faith, let us look beyond our own challenges to those is greater need. Let us do our part to lift up those who suffer. And let us do so with a song of praise upon our lips, a song of praise to the God who loves us disproportionately, beyond all measure.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Saving God, hear the cries of your people. Many are suffering; lift them up. Use us, your Church, as hands to reach out to those in need. Give us strength and courage to do the work set before us, and hope to sing in the midst of it all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: U2 performs during their “Joshua Tree Tour.” Photo taken by me at Soldier Field, June 4, 2017.

From → COVID-19

2 Comments
  1. Glenda Dela Poole permalink

    Dave, I have continued to read joyfully your messages after your leaving the Litchfield Parish. You have enriched and expanded my learning of Christ filled service and living. I lost Jerry 2-4-19 and your words have allowed peace to find its way into my heart. Blessings and thank you from Glenda Poole, the Concord resident who visited your church when we were in Litchfield.

    • Hi Glenda! How very nice to hear from you. I am sorry to hear of Jerry’s death. I know he has received the promise of resurrection. I hope and pray that you and yours are safe and well during these days.

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