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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, November 26, 2019  

Today’s Scripture 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)

Reflection
I taught English as a second language in Tokyo one summer. During the middle of a session an earthquake startled the class and put newfound faith into their teacher. Without warning, the ground shook violently and unevenly. The classroom building rattled with noises that I had never heard before. Everything else not secured down simply slid, rocked, or tumbled one way or the other. Had the chaos continued longer, it would have done a lot more damage. Not soon enough, inertia took back its steady command. The shaking faded and was followed by an eerie silence and calm.

I learned later that earthquakes and tremors are commonplace in Japan (there were more that summer) and the Japanese have come to endure them with a sort of powerless inevitability. I could only imagine a whole life waiting for the next big one. How does one deal with such an outlook? 

While tremors and earthquakes are geological events, in many ways disruptions in our lives can feel like ruptures to the fault lines in our spirits. Without warning our lives can be turned upside down, and in seemingly uncontrollable ways. Worse, we often project into the future the worst of outcomes from the ongoing turmoil. Despondent, without hope, fearful of what is ahead, our courage is zapped of its strength. Certainly singing a psalm will be one of the last of the options we identify—after all, its fight or flight time!

Deep down we know finding calm is best for restoring our faith and ability to move forward. Unlike waiting hopelessly for the next seismic event, we often forget that we are part of something larger—God’s enduring, watchful care. If you’re like me, having some reassurance goes a long way in this regard. That’s what I find the psalmist encouraging here: maintain hope by trusting in the power of God’s will and knowing that divine providence will deliver us through the tremors and shifting fault lines of our lives.

Prayer
Lord, help us to feel the comforting solace of your power and grace during our dark times. By singing this psalm we outwardly express what our faith instills within us: that “the Lord Almighty is with us . . . our fortress.” Amen.

Written by Ken Walker, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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