rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgThe Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? — (Psalm 27: 1). During Operation Desert Storm, I served on active duty as a chaplain. Late one afternoon, during active bombing, out of nowhere a violent storm could be seen coming across the desert headed directly towards our campsite. The sound of bombing was already disturbing enough and, now, here we sat, another chaplain and I, in the chaplain’s tent facing a storm.

Truth is, I was frightened; there was nothing to protect us but a tent against hurricane force winds and heavy rains. I was certain the wind and the rain would blow our flimsy tent away and we’d be shelterless in a storm.

To calm my fear, Chaplain Camardie taught me the words of Psalm 27: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’

David writes Psalm 27 as if he’s in the courts of God’s house where the priests dwell, wishing he is one of them. Seemingly, David is longing to see an end to the wars he is fighting – not to live at ease in his palace but to live in leisure in God’s house.

Hezekiah, as his health fails (Isaiah 38:22) wishes the same thing.  He too wishes for the recovery, not to keep his throne but, rather, that “he might go up to the house of the Lord.”

In truth, all God’s children want to dwell in the light of the Lord’s house, not to visit it or hang out in it for awhile or live as a caregiver or servant but to dwell there like a son or daughter who lives in their father’s house.

In the campsite, as the storm raged, the tent grew darker and darker. Then the generator blew out and there was no light. But we kept on singing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” As we sang, I wondered about the other soldiers. Should I check on them? But the commander’s orders were strict: Stay in our tents; do not wander out. So we prayed for them and kept singing.

As we sang, God’s spirit spoke to me, saying don’t just visit the light or hang out in the light for awhile, don’t be a caretaker of the light or a servant of the light; rather, dwell in the light. For in My house, says the Lord, the light never goes out.

Suddenly I wasn’t afraid anymore. I felt so uplifted. The pitch, the tune and the harmony of the song grew stronger as we came together on key.  As the tune started to sink in, I wondered how was this courage possible. I could hear the winds blowing, feel the tent flapping as the pegs shook and the winds blew into the tent beneath them. But we kept singing and then came the verse, “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion in the secret of His tabernacle.”

Those who truly desire communion with God work with diligence to seek after His light of salvation.  For in His light there are secret tabernacles. In these places, saints find the strength to believe, Holy security and serenity of mind, calmness of spirit and a peace of mind that set them upon the rock of salvation which they know will not sink under them but upon which they find firm footing for their hopes.

All night long we sang and suddenly day broke as the morning sun rose. Believing it safe now, we ventured outside our tent. As we both looked around outside, checking on the other soldiers in the camp, we quickly noticed, to both our amazement, that our tent was the only one still standing, no doubt because our tent had been full of praise, which is the oil of the light of salvation.

 

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org

Photo: Stock photo