Summary: A sermon for the Sept. 11 tragedy.
GOD IS OUR REFUGE
Text: Psalm 46:1-11
In his book HOW CAN IT BE ALRIGHT, WHEN EVERYTHING IS ALL WRONG? Lewis B. Smedes describes hope and how we view it: "... three things are going on when we hope for something. The first is desire: we want what we hope for. The second is belief; we believe that what we hope for is possible. The third is doubt; we fear that what we hope for may not happen. ... Christian hoping is not believing in the possible; it is a conviction about what is sure" (New York: Pocket Books, 1982, pp. 169, 170-171). When we seek refuge we are hopeful, but not always certain about how things will turn out. That is why "Christian hope" is so important. We cannot always know what the future holds, but our Christian faith in God can sustain us even in times of adversity because of the fact that we know that it is God who holds the future. God is our refuge and strength and our strength is equal to our faith in God.
GOD IS OUR REFUGE
A refuge is a place of protection. Those who seek refuge are called refugees. Refugees usually seek protection from war or persecution. Psalm 46 alludes to the Biblical imagery of a rock. Psalm 91:1-3 says: "he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence" (RSV).
Refugees have to take responsibility for themselves.
In his book 52 DEVOTIONS ON SHORT NOTICE, Robert A. Wallace makes a wonderful point about how we have to take responsibility for ourselves (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992). He also mentions that two ways in which we can interpret this understanding of God as a "Rock". He mentions that we can translate from the original Hebrew where it might be translated as "safe to the rock that is higher than I" (p. 112). Another way in which we can interpret it is "safe to the rock that is too high for me" (112).
"Naturalists tell us that when the wind comes up and a honeybee is unable to maintain its flight it will cling to a rock until the wind subsides. In the swaying, sweep of change, there are times when each of us must simply hold on" (112). Perhaps, you have even seen a bug clinging to your windshield for dear life as your car began to move. I have seen them hang on until the acceleration of the wind was too much for them too handle as they got blown off by the wind.
The apostle Paul told us that God would not let us be tempted beyond our strength. He also told us that God would give us a way to stand up to that temptation (First Corinthians 10:13 paraphrased). One temptation that we face during times of adversity is that of losing faith and hope.
God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness (Second Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased). Robert Wallace points out that "Though religion can become a retreat from responsibility, there are times when a retreat is essential" (p. 112). However, "We are expected to reach beyond the boundaries of familiar competence. We are expected to stretch, so the rock becomes, rather than a refuge, a challenge. So God is to be found in both the calm and the climb" (p. 112).