“Be Still, God is With You”
Psalm 46: 1-11, November 20th 2016
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Hear now our morning’s lesson, as the Psalmist speaks to us from Psalm 46, verses 1 thru 11.
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 Highest. 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.
Allow Wisdom to open your hearts as-well-as your minds – so that you shall find the willingness to listen to God in all areas of your life.”
Today, we find ourselves on the brink of celebrating our annual feast of Thanksgiving. And we find our stewardship campaign bringing us to a time of celebration and thanksgiving as well! It is a time to be grateful that so many have made such wonderful and generous faith promises this year. If for some reason you have not yet made a faith promise for this upcoming year do not panic, you still can! Even with this Fall’s campaign drawing to a close, there is always time to give and share some of yourself, some of the harvest, some of the bounty of your labor to support the efforts of this church. There is much yet to be accomplished and with everyone’s support we shall continue to be a vital part of this community in which we serve.
Turning our attention to our scripture lesson this morning, the psalmist of old speaks out to us here in the Twenty-First Century: “Be Still, and know that I am God!” /Psalm 46:10a/ These gentle, yet powerful and compelling words were said in the midst a time of hardship, oppression and uncertainty… a long, long time ago. We now live in a world that surely can identify with the ancient people of Israel unto whom the psalmist spoke. Many of us here today, may also be going through some form of hardship or another. Surely, with all the major changes going on within the leadership of our nation, many are anxious, some are angry and others are feeling a sense of fear and even abandonment. Even as I say these words, it is important to recognize that I would be using many of the same verbs and adjectives, regardless of who won the election. We are a divided nation in regards to who shall best fix the many problems facing – ‘We the People’ of this great nation! And the struggle for adequate health care, good paying jobs, and a sense of safety and security crosses all boundaries – even in this ‘time-period’ in which we now live. The clear division over the election is a strong sign that there is a lot of work left to be done in our nation! Perhaps we have not advanced as far as we once thought! Before we can be ‘still’ and come to terms with peace, we must become humble enough to turn to God and acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of things; even when we don’t like the outcome!
As we are moving forward in our lives, as a church and as families and individuals, we need to once again grapple with our understanding of God. Coupled with that we need to come to terms with what it means to be disciples of Christ as we sit here together in a Christ centered faith community. I have said this before and I shall say it again: God is the source of love. When we turn to someone whom may be struggling to come to terms with what is, rather than what might have been, the best response is with love. At the Bible study group, which I attend most every Tuesday morning at seven AM in Vero Beach, I heard a number of interesting things. One such sharing came from a man who was unhappy about the election. The next morning, he went to a job site where clearly he was involved in some way. It seems it was a very large expensive home that was being built by a large construction company. As he looked around the site, viewing the large mix of laborers and contractors, encompassing a large range of ethnic groups, backgrounds and cultures, as he took this all in… his inflamed emotions swelled to the breaking point. Then ‘taking a breath’ he looked to heaven and said a prayer, after which he viewed the scene in front of him quite differently. He was overwhelmed with a sense of love, and then awe as he saw more clearly how God has a way of dealing with division in such ironic ways. He realized how his responsibility was to love them all. What a blessing that he took time to pray. Perhaps there is something here for all of us to reflect on… and incorporate into our own lives.
I am reminded of the passage from the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 4, verse 39: ‘And (Jesus) he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’ You may recall the story surrounding these words. The disciples and Jesus had gotten into a small craft to cross over the sea of Galilee when a storm overtook them. Jesus was fast asleep. But when they awakened him, asking for help, Jesus calmed the storm. When we have done everything we know how to do, and our strings of influence seem to have slipped from our fingers, it is time to turn it over to God. We need to let go of that feeling, which tells us we must fix this right now! Rather, we need to ask God’s input and then let God’s influence and love start to work in the midst of all that is and is not. I am not saying we need to stop taking productive, positive steps and actions as concerned citizens or as concerned members and friends of this faith community. No, I am saying, as did the psalmist, as said Jesus: Be still! Trust in the power and trust in the love of God!
“Let Go and Let God” is a slogan in the rooms of 12 step programs. Its message is simple; it encourages the person recovering from an addiction of one sort or another to trust God. These individuals are perhaps struggling with day-to-day life issues and they are getting all emotionally tied up into knots… trying to fix everything, all at once! That does not work well! What they are hearing from their fellowship of support, what the folks around them are saying to them is this: “Hay, you need to let go of this and let God help you! You have tried it your way and it didn’t work! Step back and let God get involved!” For a great many of us here this morning, this is a very different message then the one we have been taught as we were growing up here in these United States. Most of us heard something like this: “Listen here, my grandparents (or great grandparents, or perhaps even my great-great grandparents) were immigrants to this country. They had nothing. They worked hard, long hours, struggled hard to make ends meet. But, through their hard work they made a success of their lives. This is what the American dream is all about! So get back on your feet and work harder and you too shall succeed!”
Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost the understandings which those early settlers had. It began with the Pilgrims whom had this vision and dream of religious freedoms, liberty, independence, and the pursuit of happiness. These founders of those early communities which rose-up way back then were spurred forward by the Protestant Reformation, and the words of such reformers as Martin Luther and John Calvin back in the early 16th Century. The message was properly stated as we came together under the American flag, the red, white and blue, with the stars and stripes. We pledge allegiance “Under God!” “In God we trust!” We were taught to put God first! When did we begin teaching that it is all up to us! Which is it! “Through our toil we made this a great nation!” Or was it by “putting our trust in God?” Perhaps we need to be reminded how God is in the midst of all things; therefore, we need to give God credit for all that we are ‘miraculously’ able to accomplish! We are not great nor successful without God! Perhaps we need to order up some humble pie for our Thanksgiving feast this Thursday!
Now we need to be clear about a couple points here. First and foremost, our scripture from Psalm 46 was acknowledging the turmoil which the people way back then were experiencing. “The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter.” /Psalms 46:6a/ But the palmist was pushing the need to trust in God! “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” /Psalm 46: 1&2a/ Yes, it takes hard work, persistence and sweat to get the job done right! But, don’t forget to give God credit too! “Be still, and know that I am God!” /Psalm 46:10/ Take a moment, now and then, to give thanks to God for all of life’s harvest and bounty!
There is a lot to be thankful for on this day. We have elected a new president without going to war and killing thousands, millions even, of fellow citizens to do so. The Civil War need not be refought today! Look to places like Syria, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan where war still rages in the streets. We are the lucky ones. We have lived to see another day and continue the pursuit of the ideals we hold dear. We have become more aware of the needs of our neighbors, perhaps even more aware of our own children and grandchildren’s needs. No, it has not become easy. Look to the struggles that even the newly elected are having as they grapple with how to make the transition and assume power. We are not alone in our struggles. We can be assured of this.
In order to be thankful one needs to be grateful. These words go hand in hand, arm and arm. One without the other is to negate the meaning of both. Along my journey of life, I have had many mentors and spiritual guides. During one of my whining and complaining self-center tantrums along life’s highway one of my guides suggested I make a list. The first list was to include everything I was disenchanted about. Then, I was to make a second list of things I was thankful and grateful for. He suggested it ought to be a very long list. Every time I brought my lists to my mentor, it was pointed out how there were two or three more things which belonged on the gratitude list. We met many times and yet, the list is still unfinished. Every day, I become grateful for something new. A new revelation, a new gift, or a new opportunity presents itself and the cycle of harvesting the bounty, and the growth of new life continues ever onward. Try it this Thanksgiving. I guaranty it will keep you up late at night adding to the list.
I wish to close our discussion this morning with one of my favorite readings ‘at-this-time’ of year. I believe that it ‘lifts up’ all that we Christians may wish to acknowledge as we sojourn toward Thanksgiving. Psalm 100, a Psalm for the offering of thanksgiving’. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” /Psalm 100:1-5/