October 26, 2014 – Reformation Text: Psalm 46
Dear Friends in Christ,
Isn’t life interesting? The ups and downs. The good times and bad times. I like to say that all of us in this sanctuary are dealing with something. Some have health challenges. Some have family upheaval. Some have job uncertainty. Some have problems with a spouse. Some have college choices to decide. Some have financial issues. Some of you have to live with the consequences of life choices.
The church is also not immune to life. Because of job movement, deaths and leaving our area we have less people in our worship services. The church at large is under attack from its adversaries to the Word of God. The church in the world is being massacred for believing in a Savior. It surrounds us. I’ve seen more of it in the last few years than at any other time in my ministry. What do you say?
“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS FALL APART?
We will look at these questions this morning through Psalm 46. These words will help us discover how we should respond when things fall apart.
The psalm is familiar, isn’t it? Martin Luther based “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on it. As we look at Psalm 46 we will see the events described are happening all around us right now. God’s Word is always contemporary.
Right away the author makes a bold statement about the position people of faith take when things fall apart: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (vs. 1-2a) We will not fear. Period.
Then the author describes three scenes. Verses 2-5 describe hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. The earth is giving way. The mountains are falling into the sea. The oceans are in chaos and the earth is shaking and trembling. In the middle of the scene what do we see? “There is a river who streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” (vs. 4-5) God is in the river. God is present. God is there to help.
Verse 6 gives us our second scene. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” Sudan, Syria, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, geopolitical conflict and terrorism, Ebola outbreaks. Yet in the middle of the chaos what do we see? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (v. 7) A fortress. The Lord Almighty is with us. A place of safety and security. A hiding place where we can rest secure.
Our third scene is verses 8 and 9. Here we have some fascinating words that describe the holy, unbridled power of God, doing things that God in his wisdom sometimes does without our comprehension. Breaking spears, destroying kingdoms, bringing desolation upon the earth. Sometimes God’s mighty, unbridled power intersects with our lives and there is collateral damage. In the middle of this what do we hear? A voice. “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v. 10)
Which of these three scenes do find your life right now? Natural calamities where things are falling apart in your home or with your health? Interpersonal conflicts? The power of God where things just happen you can’t explain? In the middle of the chaos and anxiety and uncertainty, how is your faith? Where is your faith? In whom is your faith?
Without intending it, Luther found himself in the midst of conflict that rocked the world. He raised some questions, 95 of them, that he wanted to debate and have an open discussion about. Those questions changed the face of Europe and the world and brought the threat of death and excommunication from his church. Where could Luther put his faith? In whom?
No matter what scene you are in, God comes to us like he did with Luther, with these words: “Be still. I am your refuge and strength. I am your fortress.” The writer of Hebrews states, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (13:5) God stands beside us through His Son Jesus. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection took away the sin that had separated us from God. This Table – this body and blood – is the guarantee that the Lord is always with you providing you strength to face life. The waters of baptism were poured over you like the river that the Lord is in the midst of during your challenges. We depend on the Lord’s presence throughout our lives. We can say with the psalmist: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (v. 11) This enabled Luther to stand against popes and armies.
Do you ever notice that in the midst of things falling apart the Lord through His Holy Spirit still gives us some joy, something to hang on to? Think of it this way. You may have health problems, but your children are a blessing. You may have job insecurity but your marriage is loving and solid. You may face financial challenges but your favorite sports team is doing well. I mean if you are a fan of the Cardinals you have nothing to whine about. They have been the most fortunate team in all of sports the last few years. Believe me, my stomach and anxiety level knows! And one thing to add on the blessing side – our church here at Good Shepherd. If we know of things causing your life to fall apart we are praying for you and lifting you up to the Lord. You have brothers and sisters in Christ who care because none of us are immune to the foibles of this world. The Lord continues to bless.
We are going to see these three scenes continue to play out in front of us. How will we respond when things fall apart? God comes in this psalm to encourage: Do not be alarmed. Do not worry. Do not be afraid.
These are opportunities for us as Christians to speak these words to one another. We will not fear. Be still. We can sit at home or in our workplace and read the words over and over again: God is our refuge and strength. In the middle of the chaos, we have a calm, peaceful river that warms the heart of God. A strong and mighty fortress. A voice speaking to us: “Be still. For I am your God.”