I was pretty sure today's topic was Called to Pray, but instead some notes I've been making and quotes I've been saving involving "redeemed" are pushing their way to the forefront.
I think for most of my life what came to mind when I would think of the verb "redeem" would be what you do with S&H green stamps after collecting a bunch. You would get them at grocery stores and other places, and then could exchange them for a lamp or a toaster or I don't remember what all else. I can still picture redemption center in Gainesville, Texas, on California Street, as I was growing up. But those memories seem very long ago for a 50-plus-year-old.
As an adult, my main thought has been with "Redeemed," from the concept of a hymn that I associate more with covering Oklahoma Southern Baptists during my time as religion editor than from my Methodist upbringing. "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Redeemed! Redeemed! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed! Redeemed! His child and forever I am." I can really hear all those Baptists singing it at the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City, likely led by Oklahoma Baptists' longtime music leader Bill Green. Looking up the lyrics right now though, I see that they are by Fanny Crosby, who has a lot of hymns in the Methodist hymnals, so I'm not sure why I wasn't more familiar with this great hymn.
Anyway, the words "redeem" and "redeemed" and "redemption" have started to show up a lot recently in my Christian walk. It seems like my first real reawareness of it was with a fairly new song on K-Love Christian radio. Big Daddy Weave's "Redeemed" includes these lyrics: "Then You look at this prisoner and say to me 'Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won.' I am redeemed. You set me free. So I'll shake off these heavy chains, Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be. I am redeemed."
While that song has been capturing my spirit, resonating deep within on some continuing questions and challenges of life, I came across this on July 11 in the Denison Forum daily email I receive. I don't remember what specific new cruel tragedy he was addressing here, but it doesn't really matter. I know it opened up a new understanding to me.
Here's what Jim Denison wrote: "The next time you see a tragedy in the news, would you take a moment to pray for those involved? Ask God to redeem what He allows, and volunteer to be His healing hands in your hurting world. Your ministry make not make the evening news, but it will gladden the heart of your Father forever."
The Scripture from the Upper Room the same day included, from Psalm 31: 1-8: "In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. ... You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. ... I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place."
And now, today, Denison offered this, in reflections about the tragic killings Friday in Colorado: "Like the grieving pastor, I don't know why God allowed the Aurora tragedy. But I do know that he redeems all he allows, even the horrific misuse of freedom he gave us so we could love him and each other (Matthew 22:37-39). And I know that he is grieving with his children wherever they hurt today."
As I try to draw this to a conclusion, I think of two other songs that have held meaning to me for a long time. One is from Handel's Messiah (and of course, it is from Scripture): I know that my redeemer liveth.... (I remember being surprised to learn this was in Job rather than almost anywhere else in the Bible; I realize it may be other places, too. Good thing about this informal blog is I don't have to do all that research before I publish! Maybe I'll update later, for the record!) The other is Nicole C. Mullen's "Redeemer," which she sings so majestically: "I know my Redeemer lives! I know my Redeemer lives. Let all creation testify, Let this life within my cry, I know my Redeemer lives!" (And toward the end, she sings just as powerfully: "I spoke with Him this morning," which always brings it to present reality for me.)
I guess that is how it wraps up for me today. There is a lot of what seems like confusion and inequality and injustice and just things that it seems hard to imagine how God really is in control of it all. But for today, and by faith, I know that my Redeemer lives. And thanks to some powerful recent insights from Scripture and commentators, I know that He can and will redeem and in fact is redeeming all that He allows. I lift my prayers and life to Him, that I may live to His glory, in support of his great work.