Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be Still - Part 1 (Be Still Sermon Series)

Be Still – Part 1
Psalm 46

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else--we are the busiest people in the world.”[1]  It seems people are busier than they have ever been.  But are we busy because we fear we are wasting our lives?  Are we busy because we are filling it will meaningful, real, important things?  Or are we simply filling time and not living life?  As the quote goes, “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”

We are programmed in our world to “work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger.”[2]  There is a pace of this life that seems to be getting faster and faster.  Life has got its foot on the gas petal and has looked around to find no cops in sight.  Then put the hammer down and if you aren’t on board you are simply left behind.  That is until…

There are moments that slow down.  Moments that you can replay in you head over and over again.  It happened in regular speed but in that moment you were hyper aware and soaked up every inch of stimulus and placed in a special spot in your brain.  In the wee hours of the morning, after a long 8 hour ride home from Washington, DC, my Dad and I walked into our living room to find my mom in a chair.  It was not a good sign.  My heart sunk as the words came out of her mouth.  My grandmother, my Dad’s mom, had died.  I really don’t remember what my parents did but I know I simply kept walking into the dinning room, rested my head against a wall and cried.  In an instant I can be back in that moment, standing there and I can feel that wall *right there*. 

There is another moment when Alycia and I were driving back to Durham after having Thanksgiving in Ohio.  I was driving a back road I knew to get around some holiday traffic on I40 when all of a sudden WHAM!  A deer jumped out in front of my red Chevy S10 and before I could stop I had hit its hindquarters sending it’s head around the side of my truck until it hit my door.  It was the only deer I have ever killed.  It was over before I realized what happened by I can still take myself back to that road, the darkness and the sounds of flesh and metal meeting.

Then there was May 25, 2002, my wedding day.  The day that took over a year to plan for, the ceremony had put together with all our closest family and friends sitting there watching.  All I remember is making sure I didn’t faint as Alycia came down the aisle and then walking her back down.  What happened in between, even the kiss, I cannot recall as vividly as those other events.

Psalm 46 is my favorite Psalm, and in it holds my favorite verse, verse 10.  Be still and know that I am God.  I have found comfort and peace in that verse many times in my life.  There have been moments of decision making that I prayed and prayed about.  As I wrestled with them this verse would come to mind and I could feel God’s presence come into my soul and whisper “be still.”

There are moments in a busy life when you realize that you will not be able to do it all.  I cannot stand that feeling.  If I take on a task I want to do it to the best of my abilities and to the fullest.  I don’t want to leave it half done or not done at all.  If my name is attached to it I want to see it through.  But what I have learned in my ten years of ministry that there is always work to be done, always stuff that will not get done.  I may not like it but that is the reality of life.  Maybe you are like me in that respect.  Maybe you have remind yourself that you are not Superman or Superwoman.  You are not Super-mom or Super-dad and things will be left undone.

At the end of the day I will simply have to be still and know that God is God. 

Why Psalm 46 was written is a little unclear.  Not all scholars agree to the why question.  It looks like it could have been written to celebrate some of the military wins of King David.  Some scholars think it is an eschatological hymn.  Or a hymn talking about the end of times.  We can see some of those notions in here.  But what the Interpreters Bible Commentary suggests is that it is a New Year’s Festival psalm.  There is a prophetic style to it which directs us to reset our course at the beginning of the new year. 

How many times do we do this during our New Years resolutions?  This year will be different, “[God] makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.”  How many times do we start a new year hoping things will be different?  Three times in this psalm this phrase is repeated, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  This reminds us that God is with us and is our place of refuge and strength.  God is where we can hide our faces and feel safe in a troubled world.  God is the place where things can start to make sense when this busy world gets the best of us.  God is the place where we can go and truly celebrate the gifts of life when they happen.  But none of this can happen unless we are still.

I told you that I do not remember much of my wedding because I did not take a chance to soak it in.  I regret that.  Now when I do weddings I always take a moment, just 30 seconds, to have the bride and groom realize what moment they are having.  I ask them to look around and soak it up. My hope is that moment will soak into their memory and fill their hearts with joy.  My hope it is then that they can look back and see God in their midst, uniting them as one.  We do not have trouble with that when it comes to life’s struggles and pains.  Those memories take up space without our request. 

But the good times, the victories, the triumphs, the moments when the wars do stop, and peace does exists are few and far between in our busy world.  We need to learn and practice being still and recognizing God’s goodness when we are in the moment.  I hope you have felt that today as we reminiscence about our shared journey.

In all things, in all places, in all times we need to realize that God is God and give God the credit.  We need to remember that when our worlds come tumbling down, God is God.  When our lives seem like they cannot get any better, God is God.  When life is going by at a fast rate that we cannot pull one day apart from the next, God is God. 

[read Psalm 46 again]

And all God’s people said, Amen.


[1] Eric Hoffer, Bits & Pieces, May 1990, p. 1.
[2] Daft Punk song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

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