Rev. Emily Ann Davis
First Congregational Church
Crystal Lake, Illinois
First, read Psalm 40:11-17
Some years ago, I wound up seaside with a friend who feared the ocean. In the time we’d known each other, he’d attributed it to different things: horror stories about strong currents, an early childhood viewing of Jaws, fear of chaos uncontrolled…. Whatever the cause, by the time we hit the beach that day, he was nearly 30 years old and had never waded into open water more than a few inches deep.
This, however, was the day. He’d built up the courage. He was going in.
I think we both had our doubts that it would happen. I did, anyway. But when we found our place on the beach, my companion was thrilled to find that we had stopped within view of a huge, sturdy pier. It was the perfect haven. This pier—with its thick, wooden pillars driven deep into the ocean floor—would be his stronghold. Waves wouldn’t push him, currents wouldn’t pull him, and creatures would swim around him. In the midst of chaos, if he stayed under the pier and between the pillars, he would have calm.
He waded out slowly. The water rose to his ankles, knees, and waist. When he finally reached the first pillar, he turned around to wave. But instead of seeing me, he saw a lifeguard. She was blowing a whistle, waving her arms, and running in his direction. And then, she was pointing at the sign:
“ROTTEN WOOD. Under repair. Do not swim under pier.”
When the Psalmist in today’s reading cries out for safety and deliverance, I can’t help but think of moments like these. When we need a rescue from our enemies and ill-wishers—from all of the people and things that create chaos in our lives—it’s tempting to grab hold to something easy. We tend to reach for the most obvious things in view. But our wealth and human wisdom, our social and political positions, our pride and vanity—these are rotten pillars, not worth our clinging in the end.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, the Psalmist prays. Let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.
He’s clinging to the right pillar. This Lenten season, may we all do the same.
1. What chaos is making you fearful or worried in this Lenten season?
2. What are the safeguards you’re holding on to? What might you need to let go?
3. How might you be a pillar of support—of God’s mercy and rescue—to others?
4. Can anything separate us from God?