Be still … and Know… – September 2014

Summers go by too fast. Is this a law of nature? Various Sabbath rests and get-aways I’d hoped for this summer have turned out to be mostly wishful thinking. Not entirely – there have been a few wonderful day trips to the Outer Cape and shorter visits to local beaches. Also many special activities for our daughter Rohi at our Bourne library and the Canal Visitor’s Center, and Vacation Bible School at a neighboring church, all of which we’re grateful for. I’ve been fishing most weeks (even catching). But the reading lists I’d compiled in the Spring have only gotten longer. Hoped-for trips to visit friends haven’t quite happened yet. And here we are, already at Labor Day…

Situation normal. And to keep all this in context – the whole world’s had a rather difficult summer. Compared with people in the Ukraine, the Middle East, much of Africa and many other places… My challenges are really very small…

Though as members of the body of Christ we are all connected (John 17, Romans 12, 1st Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). There’s no such thing as a solo Christian. ‘We are all members of one another’ Romans (12:5) reminds us, and “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).” The suffering of the world properly affects us all.

And because God so loved the world – the whole world (John 3:16) – and because Christ has died for all (not just for Christians – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15) – our compassion is never to be restricted by faith borders – even though we are called to have special care for our fellow Christians. Jesus calls us to see all people everywhere as potential members with us in the one body of Christ.

So we are distressed by tragic news anywhere. As people made in the image of God, we’re hard-wired for empathy and compassion. These are in fact the signs that we’re obeying God’s commandment to love.

But we need to have limits on our exposure to trauma. Appropriate limits vary from person to person, and for most of us, change over time. I don’t remember paying much attention to the news as a child. Then when I was as a younger adult, and my work called for it, I read several papers a day and listened to the news frequently. Now I limit news intake mostly to quick scans of online newspapers and a slower reading of the Bourne papers. We’re called to be in the world and aware of the world’s sufferings, joys, and challenges. We’re called just as certainly to not be conformed to the world’s values and priorities.

The most important thing for us as children of God is always to be in constant, continuous communication with God. This is the only way we can avoid burnout on the one hand, and cutting ourselves off from others on the other. We need time with God. Attentive, undivided time every day with God – so the Holy Spirit can be truly operative in us. Every day, even if for only a few minutes, we need to be still – and know that God is God.

One of the few planned things I’ve managed to do this summer has been to finally memorize Psalm 46 (after years of good intentions). The best known portion of this psalm is probably verse 10, where we hear the admonition from God to “be still and know that I am God.” (The beautiful hymn Be Still My Soul is based on this verse.)

Usually out on the back porch with a cup of coffee… Watching skies, trees, and birds… I’ve been saying this psalm as a prayer nearly every morning – slowly, pausing after each phrase–

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 ends of the earth;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still – (The quote starts here – letting us know – this is God speaking now –

and I try to pause for a longer silence here – )

and know – (again a longer pause – )

that I AM GOD

(God who is speaking here has also self-identified as “I AM” in Exodus 3, and in John’s gospel Jesus also gives a series of self-identifying “I Am” sayings…)

I AM exalted among the nations,

I AM exalted in the earth.”

(The quote ends here.)

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

I hope you’ll join me in praying this psalm. And my end-of-summer prayer for each of you is from Philippians (chapters 1 and 4). I hope you’ll join with me in praying this prayer – for our parish – and all God’s parish also:

I thank my God every time I remember you… And this is my prayer – that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God…

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always,

Pastor Tim