by Barbara Duffield
Jeremy was my youngest child and had grown up from the first grade on at St. Matthew’s in Universal City, Texas. The next day he was leaving for Basic Training in the Air Force. Where had the time gone?
One of the ministries he and one of his brothers had been involved with at our church was singing at Communion with the young people in the congregation. The rest of the service was always typical 1982 Hymnal music, but at Communion the kids got to sing contemporary music. This time, Jeremy requested his favorite of the songs, Psalm 121, and went up front to sing it solo. As I came back from Eucharist, this is what I heard:
I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from You, Maker of Heaven,
Creator of the earth.O how I need You Lord, You are my only hope;
You’re my only prayer.
So I will wait for You to come and rescue me,
Come and give me life
(Brian Doerksen – lyrics)
I could not stop myself; I stepped over next to him and we sang that beautiful piece together. The words spoke what I needed to be certain of – that he understood, as he left the nest for the final time, that he should always lift his eyes to God when he needed help. I could not hope for better than that for him.
The Book of Psalms is used for lament, for praise, for worship or complaint, in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. A psalm is recited, or sung, in unison or by turn, in most Christian churches each Sunday. This psalm is an assurance of God’s protection and is attributed by some to having been written by David just after he learned of Samuel’s death. It had always been a favorite of mine, but when I heard the musical version, it came to life in a new way for me.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore.
How can it be that words written so many years ago, by a group of Hebrews who knew nothing about the Christ that I worship, has such an impact on my faith? How can the poetry and prayer of the psalms still resound with the steadfastness of our God? The timelessness of God’s word is explained in Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
Jeremy may have been a young child and I an adult when we arrived at St. Matthew’s all those years ago, but we both learned lessons there that will stay with us for all our lives. We learned that our God is a God of love and faithfulness. We learned that God is there to protect and love us. And God knew well that when the time came that I would have to let my son leave the safety of my home, I would need to know that I could turn to Him for comfort. And better than that, He knew that when my son took that step, he would understand and claim the truth of that comfort and protection as well. For both of us, “[our ] help comes from You, Maker of Heaven, Creator of the earth.”
Barbara Duffield is an assistant in the Department of Communications for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, headquartered in San Antonio.