God is our refuge

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 …

Psalm 46:1-2

This morning I preached on Psalm 46. Actually, for the first time, we pre-recorded a worship service, so I preached two days ago, which means I am hearing my sermon and a reminder of God’s faithfulness through this text, as you are. And two days after I studied it and prepared it and wrote it and even preached it, I need that reminder.

I woke up today to the news that we will be even more restricted this week (“spring break”) than we already are, as a bunch of Portlanders fled to the beach yesterday in the sunshine. Who can blame them really? It was such a beautiful day I spent most of it outside. I prayed. I meditated. I mowed the lawn. I listened to the birds. And I also reflected upon creation spirituality, courtesy of Julian of Norwich. My headache and allergies didn’t abate until I woke up this morning, but it was worth it.

And today, upon news that I’ll likely have to change my plans to see the coast this week, I’m grateful for her and for you for worshiping with us and listening to some of my thoughts on Psalm 46.

The Psalmist it seems tells us to flee to places like a coastline or our bedrooms or our backyards to simply breathe, and listen, and know that He is God. But there’s more than that. To be still is to stop. It’s to stop all the arguing and posting and worrying and talking and striving and working towards and goal setting and lamenting and fearing …. to stop in the midst of all of this chaos and to know, simply know, God is God. This strange and surreal season we are in will not last forever. Our God who makes wars cease (46:9) is still in control.

Julian of Norwich, an anchoress who lived in a small cell, whose real name we don’t even know, recorded visions in fresh language of God’s love for God’s created. If our creator loved us enough to create us, she would say, then why would we think any different of what our maker wants for us now? In a time of poverty, unemployment, corruption, sickness (we’ve got nothing on the Black Plague), and fear, Julian pointed to creation and fresh expressions of God’s love.

Since I was only thirty and a half years old, it pained me to think of dying — not because I had special plans for my life nor for fear of any pain. But I longed to live to love God better and longer here, so I might know and love God more in the joy of heaven. In so short a time I have experienced so little of life. I thought my life as nothing and no longer giving praise to the Good Lord.

Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich (New Mexico: Bear & Company Publishing, 1983), 23.

How are we going to get through this? How do we remain as faithful and focused as Julian? You and I have a lot to distract us and yet we’re still trying to find our way. I offered some suggestions this morning, perhaps hard to hear, but crucial for us to develop resiliency. Because we will get through this.

  • Ask yourself how you cope with stress. How are you managing your fear right now? Only you know what you’re truly up to. Could you be doing it better?
  • Limit your time spent on social media and watching the news. Now don’t shoot the messenger! But we don’t see a lot revealed there that is from our creator himself! We see a lot of opinion. Imagine what great theological reflection would have been lost had these tools existed during Julian’s day. Take time during this season of pandemic to spend it differently. Don’t immerse yourself in the fear and opinion right now. Take space.
  • If prayer or meditation is not part of your daily routine, start. And start now. I can’t say enough about this. This is the perfect tool as you sit in God’s creation. Check out Romans 12:1-2 in reflection upon these points.
  • Finally, get outside. Get some fresh air. Get some sunshine. Get some perspective. As we see all God has created we are reminded just how much God loves us and everything he has created.

Tomorrow I’ve set aside time to consider other ways we may digitally practice our faith and come together as a church family – wherever you may be, near and far – during this time. So check back. We are excited about some new ideas! And for now, remember always that nothing, absolutely nothing – no quarantine, no sickness, no fear – separates you from the love God has for you in Jesus Christ. Amen.