Refuge, Strength, and Stillness: Dwelling in the Word October 25, 2020

Rapperswil Castle at Dawn by lschlagenhauf on flickr.com

Reading:  Psalm 46 (NRSV)

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He 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.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?  What do I have questions about? I am challenged by all of the chaos in this psalm.  The earth changes.  The mountains shake.  The waters roar and foam.  There is desolation.  There are weapons of war being crumbled to dust.  Although it is probably an accurate description of life here on earth, I certainly wish it wasn’t so.  I wish that being a believer meant that nothing bad ever happened.  I wish it meant that we are guaranteed smooth sailing.  This psalmist doesn’t let us off the hook into the land of wishing though; the psalmist confronts the real chaos of life head on.  Where, in your life, do you experience chaos?  Violence?  Unsettling forces beyond your control?

2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why?  Last year, we used this Psalm for our first quarter of Sabbath Sunday, with verse one as our memory verse:  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  I hope that it is familiar to you, and something that you have taken to heart in your own life of faith.  This time as I read it, I most noticed the word “strength.”  Usually, when I come to this Psalm, I emphasize the “refuge” aspects of God.  God as a place to turn, to run to, to hide away in.  When I instead emphasize the word “strength,” it reminds me that God is the source of my strength.  This empowers me, not just to go to God to run and hide, but to be grounded in the strength beyond ordinary human strength that comes from God alone.  What words or phrase stick with you?  How do these images for God resonate with you?

3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  How does this story intersect with my life?  Another familiar phrase in this Psalm comes from verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  This command reminds me most of the natural world.  I remember times when it has been incredibly windy, and then wind stills.  Or times during dawn or dusk, when even the animals seem to take a deep breath and be still.  I remember being at our lake cabin in the summer a marveling over the water when it is as still and reflective as glass.  When, in your life, have you had the opportunity to be still?  What was that experience like for you?

4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?  This week, God is calling me to remember that God is both refuge AND strength, and a very present help in trouble.  I am also reminded of an amazing centering practice with verse ten, where you slowly (one syllable per inhale or exhale) say the words, “Be still and know that I AM God.”  Each time that you cycle through the verse, you remove the last word of the sentence, until you only have “Be” left.  It is a great way to slow down, to come to stillness, to really dwell in a fragment of scripture.  I commend the practice to you.

May God continue to bless us with places of refuge, of strength, of stillness and knowing, both now and in the days to come.

In Christ,  Pastor Breen      

Psalm 46 retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+46&version=NRSV

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