The Washington Post

In a code blue moment

Over the last few weeks, I have had to spend a lot of hours in medical facilities. One of the things that I have discovered is that as much as quietness, prayer time and meditation is needed, during the daytime hours, nowhere in a busy hospital is there a place for any of the above. Not even in the small chapel. People are always walking; doctors, nurses and aides are always moving; the paging system is always paging someone. The hospital must be one of the busiest places on the planet. There is nothing negative here about the use of the word busy. Giving some thought to it, I don’t think that I want to be a patient in a hospital that was not busy.

For me, one of the most unsettling moments in the hospital is when the pager pages the emergency code — “Code blue to room 202; rapid response to room 202; all units, code blue to room 202.” Every time I hear the words “code blue” or “rapid response,” two things immediately happen to me. First I send a quick blessing to the room. Then I envision activity — doctors and nurses on a quick step moving to that room; everybody in place; everybody moving, doing their best to rescue and save a life possibly tilting on the brink of death. The best word for me to describe what I envision going on at that moment, in that one single place in the hospital is “Busy.”

Here in Psalm 70, one of the shortest of all the Psalms, the writer, who is in desperate need of help, has sent out the rapid response code to God for saving help. Verse 1 is rendered in the Message Bible, “God! Please hurry to my rescue! God, come quickly to my side.” Another version, “O Lord, make haste to help me!” And the NIV rendering is, “Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me.”

In his commentary on this text, the theology academic Greg Garrett suggests, “These verses are not specific about the danger from which the speaker desires relief. These enemies seek the life of the psalmist, desire to hurt him or her, or delight in her or his misfortunes. Whatever the case, God’s rescue is called for and expected.” The psalmist has found himself/herself in crises, in a life threatening moment, and the code has been sent out to God and rapid response is expected. Code blue, God come quickly!

Here is a salient thought that all of us must always hold on to. There will be some places, life threatening moments, when the need for divine assistance is imperative, and nothing or no one can help but God. For the psalmist. this is one of those moments. “Deliver me; help me; hasten to me; God — quickly, quickly! Quick to my side, quick to my rescue…”

 I have a feeling that a whole lot of people are sending out to God a “code blue page” and have found themselves waiting for the rapid response team. Far too many people today are living in crises and life threatening times — economic devastation; mental anguish over the lost of a job or the demise of a loved one; the possibility for some and the probability for others of foreclosure/bankruptcy; an illness that has claimed your physical body and is taking its toll on you, your relatives and friends; for whatever reason or for no reason at all, the walls of life seem to be closing in around you. You have found your life in that space where nothing and no one but divine assistance and help is imperative. Code blue God, come quickly.

Here is a faith dilemma.  How does one go on living when the code blue is paged and divine rapid response is seemingly delayed? Here are some helpful suggestions.

There are times in life when intensive prayer is critical. Pretty prayers, poetic prayers, dainty prayers, polite prayers are all good and great. They have their place in everyday and ordinary living. But in, what I choose to call, emergency room living, in code blue moments when the rapid response is paged, intensive prayer is critical. On more than one occasion King David found himself in life’s emergency room. One of those times he uttered an intensive prayer, “Have mercy on me O God…For I know my transgressions…Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil…Cleanse me…wash me…create in me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit in me. (Ps. 51)” Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and there was no time for the polite, pretty, and dainty prayer, “God if it be your will, let this cup pass from me. But not my will, your will be done.”  The Bible tells us that Paul and Silas were in jail, and they prayed intensively until the dungeon started to shake, and their chains fell to the floor. Hear this excerpt from the confessional story out of the mouth of Richard Allen: “I went with my head bowed down for many days. My sins were a heavy burden. I was tempted to believe there was no mercy for me. I cried to the Lord both night and day. One night I thought hell would be my portion. I cried unto Him who delighteth to hear the prayers of a poor sinner; and, all of a sudden, my dungeon shook, my chain flew off, and ‘Glory to God’ I cried. My soul was filled. I cried, ‘Enough! For me the Saviour died!”

In her commentary, pastor Jessica Tate summarized this thought on the plea or the prayer of the psalmist in this text, “He is urgent in his plea, impatient even. The psalmist calls to God with an urgency born of authenticity.  His cry is immediate, his fear is palpable, and his pain is raw.  His words are born out of honest feeling, hope, and experience. A reserved, polite prayer simply will not do.”

When the rapid response is seemingly delayed, when God does not show up the way you want or expect God to show up in your life threatening/emergency room-like crises moment, you must have in reserve, from previous experiences, a degree of confidence, faith and trust in God that God is present with you; that the doctor is on call, right there with you. As a matter of fact, he knows exactly what you are going through. He knows your grief; he knows your pain; and he hears your cry. 

Reading these first three verses, it becomes obvious that the writer has been in this place before. It is also apparent that from his past experiences with God, he knows what to expect from God when he sends out the code blue page. There is no hidden secret to the psalmist about God. He is confident in God’s rescuing power; He trusts that God is the same deliverer this time as he was at the last code; his trust is in the same God who came to his help before. It is almost like the psalmist is saying, “God deliver me, make haste, come quickly and help me like you did last time and the time before that. Brothers and sisters we must live, have to live everyday of our lives, every minute and moment of our lives confident, trusting and believing that God is never, not present in our lives. We must live with a degree of spirituality, trusting, knowing and believing that, indeed, God is walking with us every step of the way; God is watching over us and whatever we must go through in life, God is present and on call, on duty, on the job, and it really does not take much for us to get God’s attention. God — Code Blue.

The final suggestion. Note that even at the code blue page of the psalmist, he intermingles it with a spirit of worship and praise. “Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love you say forever, God is great.” Even in his crises, the psalmist offers an invitation to worship. I can hear somebody saying, man you are crazy. Later for that spiritual stuff. This is not the time to worship. I am in crisis…this is not the time to praise, I am in trouble…forget about all that holier than holy stuff…I’ll worship and I’ll praise after God gets me out of this, whatever this is; after the code has been addressed. Well, think on this: Worship, praise, prayer, is the code to get God’s “sho-nough” attention. He will not be late, he is already there. A soul in worship, a mind and heart in praise; intensive prayer will alert God that you need Him to grip you a little tighter, to hold you a little firmer, to embrace you a little close. Don’t you wait, don’t you delay, let the praise of our God constantly flow from you. God I praise you…God I bless you…In the mist of your code, bless the Lord with praises from your lips, with thanksgiving from your heart.  Thank him for what he has done and declare his power, his greatness, and his authority over all things. In the code blue page remember, if never before, “Then sings my soul… “How great Thou Art.”

Rev. Ronald Braxton is Senior Pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

See more sermons from local faith leaders

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