Sermon – October 26, 2014 – Reformation

Psalm 46
Read during sermon:

Have people sit:

God is our crefuge and strength, a very dpresent2 help in etrouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear

athough the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into bthe heart of the sea, 3 though aits waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4 There is aa river whose streams make glad bthe city of God, the holy chabitation of the Most High. 5 aGod is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 aThe nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he butters his voice, the earth cmelts. 7 aThe LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 aCome, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 aHe makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he bbreaks the bow and shatters the spear; che burns the chariots with fire. 10 a”Be still, and know that I am God. bI will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 aThe LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

?
Over the past few weeks I’ve had a couple people call me or stop by the office for help with interpersonal conflicts. Maybe with a spouse or another family member, someone at work or school or church. Maybe they come in by themselves, maybe with another. And obviously when you’re sitting there and the person is describing things, there’s a lot of anxiety in the room, questions about how to resolve this situation. What do you say?
Over the past few weeks I’ve also had opportunity to sit with a couple of people we’ve been praying for—people who’ve been fighting their battle with cancer or who’ve been dealing with other health issues. And obviously when you’re sitting together with the patient, talking about how things are going, there’s a lot of anxiety in the room. A lot of unanswered questions: the what-ifs, the how-longs, the how-bads. What do you say?
What Happens When Things Fall Apart?

Well, this morning let’s work through these questions by turning to Psalm 46 to discover clearly how we should respond when things fall apart. Read Psalm 46.
God is our crefuge and strength, a very dpresent2 help in etrouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear…

athough the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into bthe heart of the sea, 3 though aits waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4 There is aa river whose streams make glad bthe city of God, the holy chabitation of the Most High. 5 aGod is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 aThe nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he butters his voice, the earth cmelts. 7 aThe LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 aCome, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 aHe makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he bbreaks the bow and shatters the spear; che burns the chariots with fire. 10 a”Be still, and know that I am God. bI will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 aThe LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, this is the psalm on which Martin Luther based “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” But the psalmist also describes all kinds of natural disasters, geopolitical turmoil, interpersonal conflict, and all kinds of other stuff that happens simply because we’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Well, what happens when we realize that the events described in Psalm 46 are actually happening all around us? International chaos and interpersonal conflicts, economic turmoil, geological distress, emotional anxiety, family dysfunction, and on and on and on. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of questions that run though our minds: Where is God? How should we understand what’s going on all around us? How should we as Christians respond during these times?
Now, right away in this psalm the author makes a bold statement about the position people of faith take when things fall apart: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (vv 1–2a). We will not fear. Period.
Then the author describes three scenes. Did you catch them? The first scene is in vv 2–5, describing hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. “We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (vv 2–3). Today the earth is giving way, the mountains are falling into the sea, the rivers and the oceans are in chaos, the earth is shaking and trembling. But right in the middle of this scene, what do we see? “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 her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (vv 4–5). A river. The kind of river that, when people see it, they’re glad. The kind of river that you’d find in the presence of God himself. The kind of river that warms the heart of God. The kind of river that, when the people of God see it, they rejoice. The kind of river that, even in the middle of the chaos, people stand and say, “God is within her! She will not fall! God will help her at the break of day!” The kind of river you see in the baptismal font.
The second scene is in v 6: “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” Sudan, Syria, Iran, Israel and Gaza, North and South Korea, Afghanistan. Geopolitical conflicts are raging. Military forces clashing. Hard-line, ideological, hate-filled, power mongers standing toe-to-toe with one another, calling one another out, pushing one another’s buttons, seeing how far they can go before they reach the breaking point. Interpersonal attacks being waged one after another after another. And yet right in the middle of all the chaos and the turmoil, what do we see? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v 7). A fortress. The Lord Almighty is with us. The God of Jacob is our almighty fortress. A place of safety and security. A hiding place where we can rest secure. He is with us in the preaching of his Word in worship every Lord’s Day.
The third scene is in vv 8–9: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.” Some interesting words here describing the mighty, holy, unbridled power of God, doing things that God in his wisdom sometimes does without our comprehension. Breaking spears, destroying kingdoms, bringing desolation upon this earth. And sometimes, God’s mighty, holy, unbridled power intersects with our lives, and there is collateral damage. But right in the middle of all of this, what do we hear? A voice. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v 10). Be still, and know that I am God.
II.
Let me ask you a question this morning. Which of these three scenes do you see in your life right now? Natural calamities, where things are falling apart in your home or with your health? Interpersonal conflicts? The inexplicable, holy, unbridled power of God, where sometimes stuff just happens? How are you doing with this scene playing out in your life? In the middle of the chaos and the anxiety and the uncertainty, how is your faith? Or should I ask, Where is your faith? In whom is your faith?
Without knowing it or intending it, Luther found himself in the midst of conflict that rocked the world. Raising ninety-five questions, topics for scholars to debate really, just an invitation for open discussion, wound up changing the face of Europe and the planet—and confronting Luther with the threat of death and, worse, excommunication from his Church, the official word that his soul would spend eternity in hell. Where could he put his faith? In whom?
Well, no matter which of the psalmist’s scenes is being played out in your life, God comes to each of us this morning as he came to Luther, with these words: “Be still. I am your refuge and your strength. I am your fortress. I am that calm, tranquil stream.” As the writer of Hebrews says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (13:5). Or to paraphrase God’s word to us: “I will stand by your side no matter what. I sent my Son, Jesus, to make this happen. His life, his death, and his resurrection took away the sin that had separated you from me, so now and forevermore I am with you.” This Table—this body and blood—is the guarantee of this promise. The waters of Baptism are the guarantee of this promise. And with God’s promise, we can depend on the Lord’s presence throughout our lives. We can say, as the writer of our psalm says, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v 11).
This is the promise that enabled Luther to stand against popes and armies. His Lord of hosts, his Jesus, was with him. A mighty fortress was his God—and is ours.
There will be times in future weeks and months when we witness the three scenes of Psalm 46 playing out right in front of us. Here’s the question: how will we respond when things fall apart? Well, God himself comes to us in this psalm and encourages us with these words: Do not be alarmed. Do not worry. Do not be afraid.
Here’s the point. When things are falling apart, there will be opportunities for us as Christians to speak these words to one another: We will not fear. Be still. There will be opportunities for us to sit quietly in our favorite chair and read these words over and over again: God is our refuge and strength. Do not be afraid. In the middle of this chaos, we have a calm, peaceful river that warms the heart of God. We have a strong and mighty fortress. We have a voice speaking to us: “Be still. For I am your God.” Amen.

Leave a Reply