This Sunday many churches will be commemorating the beginning of the Reformation. This was a time when some of the uniformity of the church (the stillness, if you will) was called into question bringing about a measure of discord, rancor and clamor.
May God speak to us this day about a lasting peace, a disciplined stillness and a sure foothold in a slippery and, at times, treacherous world.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 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.
When 9-11 happened our local group of Lutheran clergy decided to have a prayer service. Each of the participating pastors were invited to choose and expound upon a Biblical text. Psalm 46 was the text I chose. I was struck by the images of tottering nations and fomenting seas. Bows and spears and shields had appeared on that terrible day to have won. Yet we rested on the hope that the battle was not yet over.
God can bring to an end the implements of war. The terrible injuries we inflict on one another do not have the last say. The clamor of our sin-stained existence cannot drown out the still waters that the Lord who is our shepherd leads us to.
Our temptation is to fight back with larger implements of war. To strike deeper and harder at the ones who injured us. We will drown out the cries and the shouts of our enemies with angry, hate-filled cries of our own. We will make sure to rain down trouble that far exceeds that poured down upon us.
But God's ways are not our own. We are invited into a stillness to know that God is God. We are invited to regard the one who like a sheep was silent going to slaughter. When his followers brandished ear-severing swords and promises to fight to the death he said "no", healed the ear and went obediently to a end of the spear. God has broken the bow. God has been exalted among the nations (but his exaltation looks much more like a serpent dangled out in the desert rather than a conquering emperor).
God is very present help in trouble precisely because Jesus has entered fully into our troubled world. God is in the midst of us and our city. No matter what befalls us, it befell Jesus first. No matter what comes our way it cannot separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
If there is any fear to be had it ought to be the fear of the Lord (reverent awe as much as terror) and that is the beginning of wisdom.
God, draw us to be a God-fearing people. Bring us to places of reverent stillness. You, Lord of hosts, are with us. You, God of Jacob, are our truest and surest refuge. Amen.