by Kat Hampson
When God Protects
I always find it a sacred experience to enter into worship alongside my Black sisters and brothers with gospel music. While contemporary worship songs tend to dwell on the majesty of God and the gift of salvation in Christ, gospel music also declares a personal testimony of the Lord’s goodness and grace even in life’s many struggles. “I was […], but God […]!” These declarations come out of a tradition of resilient faith and defiant hope of Black enslaved people who testified to God’s faithfulness and power in the form of spirituals. These declarations reminded them that the Maker of heaven and earth was on their side. One of my favorites goes, “When I think about the Lord, how he picked me up, turned me around, placed my feet on solid ground… it makes me want to shout!”
In Psalm 124, the psalmist declares, “But God!” using images of an earthquake, a fire, a torrential flood, and a hunter’s snare to destroy any illusion of self-sufficiency. Instead the psalmist points to God’s hand protecting and delivering his people. What is your “but God!” testimony?
Lord, maker of heaven of earth, you are my provider and protector. I praise you! AMEN.
When God Provides
Plants provide us with food, fiber, shelter, fuel, and medicine. Plants also release oxygen and regulate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What a wonder plants are! In Mesopotamian mythology, the gods create humans to serve them and lighten their workload, leaving humans to feed on grass and drink water from ditches. In stark contrast, Genesis affirms the generosity of a God who feeds humankind and provides for his creation, giving all the plants of the earth as a gift to nourish and strengthen them, allowing humans to live even more fully into the image of God that they were created to be. Even as we recognize today the immense value of plants, let us remember the greater wonder of a good God who abundantly provides plants as gift for us to receive and steward.
God, thank you for providing for our nourishment even from the very beginning. Bless the hands that plant, tend, and harvest, and may the energy we derive from plants be used to bring you glory. AMEN.
NUMBERS 11:4-6, 10-18
When God Comes Alongside
One of my seminary professors would drill into our heads, “DO NOT do ministry alone!” Our society has been fed the lie that solo “lone-ranger” leadership is admirable or exemplary. However, having partnership and co-leadership in ministry is a necessary guard against temptation, as well as against feelings of resentment, bitterness, and isolation that might fester and boil over when times are challenging.
In this passage, Moses projects his own exhaustion with the people’s complaints as resentment unto God. Both the people and Moses seem to have forgotten how the Lord has led and provided for them thus far. Yet the Lord in his grace gives the people the meat they crave, and, more significantly, help for Moses in the form of ministry partners to share the burden and responsibility of leadership. Where do you need partners to come alongside you?
Lord, I pray for partners to come alongside me in the areas of ministry to which you have called me. Help me see that I am not alone. AMEN.
ESTHER 3:5-6; 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
When God Calls
The holiday of Purim on the Jewish calendar commemorates the day that Esther, queen of Persia, saved the Jewish people from execution by Haman, the advisor to the Persian king. Esther courageously revealed her previously hidden Jewish heritage to her husband the king and asked him to spare her people, which he did. While the book of Esther is a biblical book that does not mention God explicitly, it is abundantly clear that God is very much working through Queen Esther’s life in order to save her people—his people.
Esther had a choice between staying silent and safe from Haman, or being brave enough to identify herself with her people and speak up for them, even at risk of death. Where might God be calling me to speak up and speak out against injustices perpetrated against those whom God loves? Where might God be calling me to deeper solidarity?
God, you entered into solidarity with us in Jesus Christ. Help me to follow Christ into deep solidarity for the sake of your people. AMEN.
When God Rescues
A pastor friend once told me of a bird who had flown through an open window of their house and could not get out. As several kids and pet dogs tried to redirect the bird back to the open window, the terrified bird flew in frantic circles attempting to find an exit as well as evade his pursuers. The pastor remarked how he wished he could become as a bird himself and communicate to the trapped one that he could lead him to freedom.
When we were trapped in sin, knowingly or unknowingly, God came as one of us in Jesus Christ to rescue us. Jesus shares the exact imprint of God’s very being. “We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV). God does not stand far from us but gives us his very Self.
God, thank you that in Jesus Christ, we see the fullness of who you are! AMEN.
When God Sanctifies
When the world was brought to its knees by the Covid-19 pandemic, I remember hearing about the vaccine trials and the stories of folks willing to risk potential infection in order to help find a cure for the virus. On one hand, I was profoundly moved by their courage to step up, and on the other hand, it also made me uncomfortably self-aware of my own tendency to avoid pain and risk. In a world where suffering is avoided at all costs, Jesus instead steps up to enter into our suffering. He takes upon himself our sin-infection and experiences the pain of oppression, rejection, and death so that he may sanctify us and give us new humanity (new “immunity” against the scourge of sin!). Yet it is only through Jesus’s sacrifice and love that we enter into the family of God and into Christ’s glory.
Thank you, Jesus, for entering into our suffering so that we might enter into your glory and be called your family. Form us as people of solidarity out of your own heart. AMEN.
When God Shows Up
I remember little from the days after my pregnancy loss in 2018, as the hours blurred in heartache, stretches of time awash in tears. Yet what I do remember—vividly—is our church showing up for us. They fed us as we had no strength to cook for ourselves. They grieved with us and prayed for us, lifting our broken hearts up to the Lord in prayer.
From the very beginning, the Trinitarian God who is community-in-unity in himself knew it was not good for humans to be alone, and created us to be connected in community as one of the ways we reflect his image. This James passage shows us how God provides the body of believers to lift one another up in prayer for healing and forgiveness.
Thank you, God, that you have given us each other. Help me lean more into what it looks like to be part of your body the church in this way. AMEN.