Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
--Psalm 91:1-2 NRSV
Have you ever sung or heard the song “On Eagle’s Wings?” It was written in the 1970’s by a Catholic priest and over time it became widely popular in both Catholic and Protestant circles. It’s not surprising that President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, referenced this song in his victory speech the day after the presidential election. Given the deaths of loved ones Biden has endured, he most likely heard this song sung in funeral masses. I’m usually uncomfortable when politicians in our pluralistic democracy make use of exclusively Christian symbolism. I am conscious of my non-Christian friends in such moments. I do think, however, it is a good song, based on a better scripture, for Christians at least to reflect upon during our current time.
From folks inside our church and outside it, I sense fatigue. We have stretched ourselves for almost a year now in ways we never thought would be necessary. Parents are exhausted trying to work from home and help their kids with online school, people are worried about jobs in industries that can’t function during a pandemic, seniors are isolated and lonely. To say this had been a tough year is an understatement. I’m especially glad to have the Chiefs in the Super Bowl to bring me some excitement this week, but I’m already dreading Monday when I no longer have an NFL season to enjoy. (Pity the poor cities whose teams were out of the running weeks ago.)
Living with an awareness of COVID-19 and its dangers has raised everyone’s stress levels. We evolved to deal with temporary threats—hence fight or flight—not ongoing ones. Dealing with the uncertainty due to an epidemic unprecedented in our lifetimes has made it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out the normal ways we adjust to changing circumstances. It is hard to prepare for something when experts are learning along ordinary folks. We have the blessed hope of vaccines, yet so much uncertainty remains over who will get them and when, as well as how many need to get them in order for the pandemic to be “over.”
Since the pandemic is not done, we need to reflect upon the message of “On Eagle’s wings,” not only as we grieve the 420,000+ dead but also as we grieve all the hopes and expectations for what the last year would be but wasn’t. The message of this song and Psalm 91 which it is based on is more than just a funeral message, however. It is a message of how to live in this life, in the here and now, in the midst of adversity. So here are a few brief suggestions about how you may “dwell in the shelter of the Most High.”
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851