Saturday, October 26, 2019

Be Still Year C, Reformation Sunday, Psalm 46

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Those two words, “Be Still”, represent for us one of the most difficult challenges for us and also, an incredible invitation to a life of faith and trust.
Be Still.
Just be Still.
Another similar passage comes from Exodus, the 14th Chapter.
Moses had just led Israel out of Egypt, and they had come to the Red Sea.  As they stood there with their backs to the sea, and with Pharaoh’s army bearing down upon them, they panicked. 
In great fear they cried out to the Lord.
In response to their cries, Moses said:
"Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still."
Of course then, the sea parted and the Israelites were delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians and set free.
Stand firm.
Be Still.
And know that I am God.
In Psalm 46 David addresses two of the most powerful sources of threats to the people, natural disaster and the national crisis of war.
In Genesis 1 the state of the universe prior to God’s creative activity was that of a watery chaos, formless, void, and dark.
And to an extent, the threat under which we live in the face of natural disasters is a return to that primordial chaos which reigned upon the earth at that time.
Fear is the result.
Jerusalem was a city that lay in the sites of many an empire.
The nations of the world would rise up against her, and more than once armies would lay siege against her.
Our instinctual response to such threats and the fears they provoke is either to flee or fight.
God invites us to another response:
Be still, then, and know that I am God.
Calm down.
God is in control.

As we journey through this life we face threats in various ways and forms.
The first is the threat to our life that comes as a result of our own mortality.
Life is fragile.
It is a delicate balance.
And it can come to an end in a moment, in the blinking of an eye.
The older I get, the more aware I become of this.
And one of the facts that becomes more and more pronounced for me with each passing year is how many times I have faced issues which might have caused my death.
On Friday morning, driving to work in Hayden for the last time, I reflected on how lucky I was to have made that commute, in all sorts of weather, for four years and aside from a minor altercation with a deer, to have been safe through it all.
A simple thing such as driving can be a threat and end our lives in the blink of an eye.
I’m also increasingly aware of the threat that we face with our health.
I’ve had at least three conditions that, in another day, could have meant my death.
Open heart surgery for a mitral valve failure.
Nearly drinking myself to death.
And last year, a bowel obstruction that just a few decades ago would have meant sure death in a matter of days and weeks.
In the face of all that threatens us, God calls out to us:
Be still, then, and know that I am God

Our nation finds itself in perilous times.
In years past the threat that we faced was from the outside.
Whether it was the Germans or the Japanese in  World War II, or the Russians during the height of the Cold War, the enemy was well defined and, to an extent, easily defended against. 
Today the threat to our nation lies within.
It’s not that the Left is a threat.
Or that the Right is a threat.
What really threatens our country is the growing partisanship and widening divide between Left and Right. 
Even though no shots have been fired it is as though our nation is at war with itself.
And we fear for the future.
Face with these fears, God’s word for us is
Be still, then, and know that I am God.

On another front, natural chaos looms on the horizon and is too often experienced.
Mother Nature seems to be pissed.
Scientists tell us that this is the result of climate change.
And, that matters will get worse, much worse.
Storms will rage and destroy.
Flooding and droughts.
Rising sea levels.
And significant changes to the delicate balance of this world in which we live that may result in a variety of threats to our health and wellbeing.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea; though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Be still, then, and know that I am God.

Face with all these threats do we fight or flee?
Or do we simply choose to ignore them, pretending they are not here?
For some of us, we have the privilege of responding with apathy and indifference because at the moment we are not under direct threat.
For others, the threat is real and the threat is now.
Category 5 Hurricanes cannot be ignored.
Nor can one ignore it when the family farm is now under water due to rising lake levels.
The dysfunction of our government, and the threat to our democratic way of life do not resolve themselves if we simply turn off the news.
Nor does our mortality go away if we but choose to ignore it for another day.
Faced with all this we can come out fighting.
Or we can flee as fast and as far as we can.
Or we can just stand there.
Be still, then, and know that I am God.
The measure of our faith is not in how we entertain ourselves during the good times, but rather in how we face the most difficult of times.
Can we sit back and simply trust God to be our deliverer, our savior, and our protector?
It seems to me that there are two dimensions of this faith in God.
The first dimension is to recognize that God, and not us, will be the only one to be able to address and overcome these most difficult of threats.
In the midst of it, our response then is to be that of faith, standing firm, being still, and witnessing the salvation of our God.
That is a passive faith in which we place our trust in the God who has promised to save us.
And then there is also an active faith.
It is a bold faith.
It is a faith that believes that God can work through us and bless our labors as we seek to do his will and follow his commands.
It takes faith to believe that we can be agents of healing.
It takes faith to believe that we can be ambassadors of reconciliation.
It takes faith to believe that we can care for this planet upon which our very lives depend.
Most of all, it takes faith to believe that God can and does work through us and through our labors.
May this peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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