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Friday, January 30, 2015

Today’s Reading | Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
     though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
     though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
     the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
     God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
     he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
     see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
     he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
     he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
     I am exalted among the nations,
     I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our refuge. (NRSV)

You’d think this would be an easy passage to write about: When things go badly, God will protect you and stand up for you. Trust God and you’ll be OK. Shortest devotion in history. On to the rest of the email.

And if you only read the first five verses of the psalm, that’s what you get. If you go on, it gets a little disturbing:

“God utters his voice; the earth melts . . . Come, see the Lord’s deeds, what devastation he has imposed on the earth. . . . ‘That’s enough! Now know that I am God!’”

You almost expect a maniacal laugh—“I am powerful! See, I destroy things! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!”

As usual, the things we find disturbing in scripture tend to point out uncomfortable truths about ourselves. How do we conceive of God’s power? In this instance, by painting him as being able to destroy the “bad” things. In this instance, that’s how God keeps us safe, through judicious application of smiting. And deep down we kind of like that, feeling like we have a big brother who will beat up all the bullies, like our daddy will chase all the monsters out of our closet, like Superman will come save us.

Deep down, we’re little kids—afraid of the world, wanting to know we’re safe.

But the one we worship is not Superman or Batman, simply destroying evil. The one we worship is the guy who took the abuse, took the pain, and simply made it nothing of consequence. The one we worship took the worst kind of horrible, violent death and changed it to life.

And the ability to do that? That’s power. The willingness to do that? That’s strength.

Lord, help me to remember that true strength is not found in the ability to destroy, but in the ability to transform harm into good. Help me to practice this and trust in your true power. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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