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.. ‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:1-2, 10-11
I want to take you back to when Pastor Brad was a kid and he was sitting in the pew at First Lutheran Church in Plano, IL. We went to church three out of every four Sundays and we always sat in the same pew and in the same order. Towards the inside, by the center aisle, was my older sister Amy, followed by my Mom, then my twin sister Megan, then me, and my Dad was always on the end towards the outside. But here is the thing about my Dad. He would sit with his arm on the back of the pew, right behind me. There were two reasons for this. The first was that it was comfortable and I often sit like that today when I sit in a pew. But the second, and more important reason, was so that he could quickly grab me to keep me in line. After all, I would be sitting in my spot, squirming around and never sitting still, playing with the hymnal, the bulletin, and pencil, whatever. Since his arm was right there, he could squeeze me to settle me down or pinch me if I wasn’t following along in the service. But mostly it was to keep me still and quiet during worship.
I think of that every time I hear this reading of Psalm 46. Be still and know that I am God it says. Be still. That has always been hard for me, to be still, and over the years that arm sitting on the back of that pew was a comfort. I knew my Dad was there and had my back. He was someone I could go to talk about anything, from sports to school to girls. He was there sometimes to rescue me when I really got my Mom mad or to put in my place when I made a big mistake. With my Dad around, I always felt safe and secure and that everything would be ok. Maybe you have felt that same kind of thing with your Mom or Dad or a grandparent. That person who helped you feel safe, secure, and loved.
So it was a shock when, on this day 27 years ago, he died. Our next time in church when we filed into our normal pew, there was no arm there. The seat was empty. I felt lost. The one person who made feel safe and secure, the one who I looked up to and tried the emulate, the one I could talk to about anything and everything, was gone. It was something that shook me to my core.
And then I felt an arm that had always been there, but I hadn’t noticed. It was the arm of my heavenly Father, my God, who had me nice and tight. God was my refuge and strength and my very present help in trouble. My Savior Jesus Christ would be there to guide me, that though my foundation had been moved and had been shaken, I had nothing to fear, for God was in the midst. God was present and always had been. I could be still and not only remember my Father but feel my heavenly Father, my God, and my Savior Jesus Christ who forgave me of my sin and gave me new life.
God is our refuge and strength and very present help in trouble. NO matter what might be shaking to your core today, your Savior, your God, lovingly has an arm around you, giving you comfort and strength. No matter how restless you might be, or anxious, or full of worry, your loving God is there to remind you to be still. You can be still because God has got it. God is ready to listen to all that is going on in your life. Your Savior Jesus Christ is there to give you love and grace and to guide you and to be a stronghold you can count on. Take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine God’s arm sitting right behind on the top of the pew, holding you close. Remember: you are loved, and you have a refuge and strength for the Lord is with you. For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!” Amen