I discovered a postcard from 1928; the photo on the front was of three cowboys gathered around a dead mountain lion that was strung up and hanging on Main Street in Junction, Texas. The lion stretched taller than the tallest man; the lion was sleek and muscular, and even in death a fearsome sight. The men, women and children of that small hill country town would join with the Psalmist in saying, "Save us from the mouth of the lion!"
We travel in life, often times with fear and trepidation; we have experienced the dark valleys. We were evacuated from a roaring fire; we grieved with the salty tears that seemed to have no end; we have faced separation that cut like a knife. And then from the darkness and fear, morning breaks with a new dawn and just a glimmer of hope. Day by day, our eyes open to the promise and the certainty that we do not walk in the valley alone. God "did not hide his face from me."
Worshiping in the faith community brings healing. We listen to the hymns and prayers, and in the silent hugs of peace shared within the presence of the community of faith, we slowly begin to stand again and breathe deeply and give praise to God ourselves. The table, set with signs of grace and love, gives meaning to safety and hope.
O God, many things in the world call us to be afraid and we isolate ourselves; remind us of the good news that comes to heal and bind us together in love. Amen.
Psalm 22:9-28 (NRSV)
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.