Day 20, April 2, 2020
“Torn out…and set down”
Drawing on a book entitled “Life Together” during a time of social isolation might seem a little odd. Despite the apparent contradiction, something Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “Life Together” came to mind as I was reading my bible this morning. Among the practices that mark our life together as a Christian community is the practice of reading the bible. As Bonhoeffer extols the importance of reading the Bible, he says that when we read the Bible, “We become a part of what once took place for our salvation.” He talks about passing through the Red Sea, wandering in the desert with the Israelites, entering the Promised Land. “All of this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth.”
Torn out of our own existence…and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. That is a rather dramatic description of something as seemingly innocent and safe as reading the bible. Torn out…and set down. Well, let me tell you, when it happens, when you are torn out…and set down…it is rather dramatic.
Just this morning I was torn out of my existence. While I was sitting in my basement office in our home, reading through the psalms, I was torn out of my existence here in Westerly, Rhode Island, during this time of the Coronavirus, during this time of distancing and isolation, during this time when we are bombarded with news that is discouraging, depressing, and distressing, during this time when I am missing the great joy of gathering together with friends to worship, to fellowship, to sing, to pray, and simply to be together. During this time of the Coronavirus I was torn out of my existence…and I was set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth.”
Reading Psalm 66 the psalmist saw me stuck in my basement office and he called out to me, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on our behalf. God turned the sea into dry land, the children of God passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in our God.” (Psalm 66:5,6) My goodness, I could almost feel the spray from the Red Sea as that mighty body of water parted right before my eyes. I could feel how firm the foundation was as I stepped on dry land, land that had moments before been covered in water. I braced myself against the breeze that God brought to drive those waters apart. And even though I was still sitting alone in my basement office, when Miriam handed me a tambourine I just had to jump up and join in the celebration.
It is not always the Red Sea. When we are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth, we can be set down anywhere. You might be set down in a Garden, in the Garden of Eden where life is in full bloom and Adam is thumbing through his thesaurus trying to find names for all those wonderful animals God has put on earth. You might be set down in a Garden, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is praying his heart out, and where Jesus is affirming that he will follow wherever his Father in heaven leads. “Yet not my will be done, but yours.” You might be set down in a Garden, in a Garden where there is a tomb…an empty tomb. I love when God tears us out of our own existence and sets us down in the midst of God’s own holy history.
Anyway, this morning I was torn out of my own existence and set down in the midst of God’s own holy history on earth. Drenched in the roaring waters of the Red Sea, I was immersed in a psalm of praise. “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of God’s name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3)
You might be in isolation, but you are not trapped. You are not trapped in your own existence. Open up your bible! Get ready! Be prepared! Be prepared to be amazed as God tears you out of your own existence and sets you down, sets you down right smack dab in the midst of God’s own holy history.
With the love of Christ,