Scripture: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
I really wanted to open this sermon with a story.
I’m not doing that, obviously; I struggled to find a story that really fit with what I was trying to say about our psalm for today, Psalm 46. It’s a psalm full of big imagery: the mountains are shaking, the ocean is roaring, and kingdoms themselves are tottering.
I was trying to find a story that showed that feeling in someone’s life: those moments when it feels like the very world is ending, those times when you’re sure you won’t make it. But I’m not sure I needed one, because we all have those stories, moments where it felt like everything was ending and continuing on was impossible. It may have been the death of someone you loved, or an event like 9/11, or a job loss, or something else that was just difficult. Those are the moments where it feels like everything is ending, and everything is irrevocably changed.
But the psalm is also full of big imagery God, and what God is doing: God is able to melt the very earth (not, perhaps, the most comforting imagery, but it certainly is powerful), God shatters all weapons, and God is steady–like a fortress, like a city, utterly unfazed by, apparently, mountains suddenly collapsing and tidal waves.
When I say that God is unfazed, I do not mean that God is unaffected. God mourns when we mourn and weep when we weep; God deeply cares for and loves each of us. God cares when bad things happen to us. When I say God is unfazed, then, I mean that God doesn’t panic. God is a certain foundation and fortress to us through the most difficult of times. God will be with us no matter what, through it all, and that means that everything will be okay. That doesn’t mean you’ll be unchanged on the other side, or that you’ll make it through unscathed. It means that God will be with you through it all, protecting and guiding and walking with you. God is with us.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never experienced an earthquake or a tidal wave, so I wanted to end by reworking the psalm a bit so that it feels more familiar: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in all kinds of trouble. Therefore we do not need to fear, though the world around us should change, though jobs are hard to come by and churches are closing, though your family has unexpectedly fallen apart … God is in the midst of us and shall not be moved from our side… The Lord of hosts is with us, and is our refuge…. Come and behold the works of the Lord; see what God has brought about on the earth: God makes wars cease in all corners of the world, breaks addiction and shatters partisanship and hatred and all kinds of violence. God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I am the God of this church and every church. I will carry you through no matter what happens. I am with you.'”
Alleluia, and Amen.