STOP! Report of Fiona Waite’s Sermon on Psalm 46

FionaAUGwee

FionaAUGThis morning, Fiona Waite was the preacher, speaking on Psalm 46.

She began reflecting on this Psalm a couple of weeks ago while on a family holiday in Harris. The week before she’d been part of the Hilton team working with people with Down Syndrome at the Casa Haralui in Romania – spiritually speaking, that had been a ‘mountaintop experience,’ she said.

The time in Harris gave her a chance to slow down, and hear from God.

God is God, she said, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, whatever we’re feeling.

Safe on the Rock

She turned to Psalm 46 while sitting on a rock beside the sea. Great waves were thundering in from the ocean, disintegrating on the cliffs beneath her, throwing up stinging curtains of spray.

‘God is our refuge and strength…..therefore we need not fear. (v1-2)

Sitting on a rock above the waters, Fiona knew she was safe, despite the awesome waves: and because she was secure, she was able to appreciate their beauty.

Psalm 46 is a call to stillness and peace knowing that standing on the rock of God, we are secure.

God is in us; God is as present to us as the troubles themselves.

Safe as God’s family

Fiona pointed out that the Psalm isn’t the cry of an individual woman or man – it’s the cry of the people of God.

As God’s family, this is our battle-cry, Fiona said. The Psalm contains truth for us to claim when the storms surround us. It calls us to exercise the unshakable faith of the people of the God who strengthens us for both for the ‘now’ and for the future.

Lots of us will be facing new things this week – new term, new school, new job, perhaps. The Psalm calls us to focus on the God who was, and is, and is to come.

With that focus, Fiona assured us, we will not be afraid.

When all our certainties are shaken

We reflected on verses 2 and 3 of the Psalm, which paint a picture of destruction – the immovable being moved.  To Fiona, and to most of us, mountains seem strong, solid, secure, enduring. But in these verses, they are ‘quaking’ and falling ‘into the heart of the sea.’

And this challenges us to – for all our talking about God, do we rest on earth-bound securities – or in the unchanging God?  Even the most seemingly-solid things will fail us. Is our refuge, therefore in these things which cannot last, or in God.

Where are we to look for help when our personal lives, or the world at large seems to be disintegrating, and we swamped by the roaring of waves of crises.

Trust in God, the Psalmist says.  God is ‘an ever-present help in trouble.’

Finding the place of shelter

Fiona described being caught in a thunderstorm while exposed on the top of a hill in Romania. There was a real risk of being hit by lightning, and the Hilton group hastily retreated downhill, looking for a place to shelter.

God is that place of shelter to us – our safe place, our Protector.  Even though the whole created world is in danger of collapsing, we will not fear.

God will help us as we struggle with day-to-day worries.

And we are called to be witnesses of a faith which cannot be shaken. Twice (verses 7 and 11) the Psalm reminds us that ‘The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.’

God with us!

Which is the meaning of ‘Emmanuel’, one of the titles given to Jesus.

Jesus is our shelter

Jesus is the reason for our unshakable faith respite the crises.

Jesus is the reason we need not fear. Jesus has conquered both sin and death, and offers the gift of eternal life to all who believe.

‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,’ Jesus told his followers (John 16:33)

We are not promised an easy ride; inevitably problems will come. But we are promised life eternal.

None of us know what this new week will bring, Fiona said. But we can be sure of having rest and security in Jesus Christ. Storms will come; immovable things in our lives may be shaken. But Jesus will never run away.

‘We have an unshakable faith,’ said Fiona, ‘because we believe in an unshakable God.’

But what about when I am afraid?

‘Be still and know that I am God,’ God says in verse 10.

But how, asked Fiona, can we really experience that stillness when in fact we are worried, and battered – and, frankly, afraid?

There are ‘mountain top’ experiences such as Fiona described enjoying while in Romania. But as the young people at Sole Survivor heard last week, there are also times when we feel in the valley.

But whatever we are experiencing God says

‘STOP’

In the chaos of the world, God says

‘STOP’

‘Stop your striving and know that I am God,’ as someone has translated v10.

Or simply ‘Give in!’

Simply know that God is God.

Relying on God alone

This verse demands from us sacrifice and vulnerability. It means setting to one side the things we rely on, and instead putting our faith in God.

We feel the pressure building. ‘This is my responsibility!’; ‘If I don’t do this it won’t get done!’; ‘Who will help this person today if I don’t?’

‘Be still,’ God says. ‘Trust me,’

Fiona who is a passionate tea-lover, and knows how tea should be made, described her brother kindly offering to make her a cup when he was about 14. She accepted gratefully, and then watched rather sceptically, doubtful of his tea-making expertise. Milk in the cup; boiling water added; and …. what’s this – a tea bag place on top of the milky water, where it floats lanquidly?

‘STOP’ Fiona said.

She poured out the offending contents of the cup and gave her brother a gentle, big-sisterly demonstration of how tea should be made.

In  verse 10 God is shouting to us

‘STOP!’

‘Stop trying to do things on your own! Stop thinking you know best!’

‘Stop and LEARN!’

‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength,’ says St Paul in Philippians 4:13.  We  need to stop living in our own strength.

A reorientation of our minds

If we’re in a panic about what we have to do in the week ahead, facing pressures to compete and achieve, thinking ‘How will I fit it all in?’ let’s stop, and remember that God is God.

We need a re-orientation of our minds.

God is in control of our lives, and of the lives of those around us.

It’s hard to ‘Be still’; hard to ‘STOP!’

But we are members of God’s family, the people of God, Christ’s church.

Therefore we will not be afraid, for God is in control.

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