Reformation

 

be-still
photo by spcbrass on flickr.com

Psalm 46 (New Revised Standard Version)
1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Devotional Questions from the ELCA Book of Faith Initiative:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me as I read this text?

What delights me as I read this text?

What stories or memories from my own life do I remember when I read this text?  You might choose a line or phrase to focus on that has been helpful in your own life, for example.

What do you think God is up to as you read this text?  What is God calling you to do or to be because of this story?

This is the psalm that is always appointed for Reformation Day, which we celebrate on the last Sunday in October in the ELCA Lutheran Church.  It is a day that marks the beginning of the conflict that led to the formation of the Lutheran church 499 years ago.  The founder of this movement was Martin Luther, a monk and professor who was angered by what he perceived to be abuses of the Catholic church at the time.  On October 31, 1517, he posted 95 theses, or points to argue, on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenburg, Germany.  This started a very tumultuous time for the church, and I imagine that the words of comfort in Psalm 46 became a raft to cling to for people who were trying to remain faithful to God while standing up to injustice.

What verses in this psalm speak to you?  I know from previous studies that the psalms can be intimidating at first glance.  It is often easier to break it down into verse by verse chunks, and then see what speaks to you from there.  Here are some of the verses which are speaking to me:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

This verse is one of those that I turn to when I am in trouble.  When life seems too busy, or I have gotten over-committed, over-scheduled, or just plain overwhelmed, it is helpful to be reminded that God is not far off.  God is present here and now.  God is a place of refuge.  God is my source of strength, especially when circumstances are beyond my ability to deal with.  How has God been present in your life?  In the midst of trouble?  How has God been your refuge?  How has God worked as your source of strength?

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  (Psalm 46:7 & 11)

First, this verse reminds me that this psalm is not just for me; it is for us.  It is a communal psalm, and God’s presence is not just for me personally, but for all who call upon the name of the Lord.  We are in this together, and God comes not just to me, but to all of us.  Second, I think it is significant that this verse is repeated twice over the course of the psalm.  Usually, when I repeat something to me children, it is either because they weren’t listening the first time, or because I feel that it is important enough that I really want them to hear it.  When I carry this verse with me, it becomes a cadence to my step, repeated over and over again until its holy truth sinks deep into my soul.  How does knowing that God is the God of us change your perspective?  How might you carry this verse with you as you journey through life?

Be still, and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10a)

This entire psalm describes a time of difficulty.  It is interesting to me that, in the midst of all of this, God’s own voice breaks in to tell us to be still.  I have used this verse fairly often as a breathing meditation when I am feeling especially frantic or frazzled.  I once saw this as a video meditation online that really stuck with me.  It began with the entire verse and then, little by little, it removed one word at a time from the end to the beginning.  The last word left was simply “Be.”  What are some ways that you cope when things are difficult?  What it is it like for you to be still? What are some times in your life when you knew for certain that God was in control?

I pray that you will carry this psalm with you as we prepare for Reformation Day at the end of the month.  May it be a blessing to you as we continue our walks of faith together.  I am looking forward to studying it with you.

In Christ,
Pastor Breen Marie Sipes

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