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Be Still

Apologies that due to a MailChimp glitch, Monday’s devotion did not go out.  Here it is!

This week Pastor Margo will examine Psalm 46 and what it offers to people addicted to activity, to motion, to distraction.

46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (NRSV)
God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. (Message)
God is our refuge and stronghold, a help in trouble, very near. (JPS)

Psalm 46 describes a cacophony of activity in the universe: creation experiences earthquakes and roaring waters, while civilization experiences war and nations in uproar. Even God seems part of the chaos, melting earth with his voice. What can this psalm tell people addicted to the tumult of the news cycle and locked into schedules, to people who are “harried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?” (Matthew 9:36)

“Refuge” in Hebrew is machaceh, which connotes a shelter from danger, and in this psalm specifically- the person to whom one flees. This term is used in other psalms. In both Psalm 73:28 and 91:9 the sense is of the person making the Lord their refuge. “Strength” in Hebrew is oz, in the sense of a strong tower or high rock. Psalm 62: 7 says, “my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.” God is ezrah, “one who helps,” or in Psalm 60:12, the one “who treads down our foes.” This help is findable and obtainable, very present. God is “ready to help,” nearby. How do we activate or experience God as our protection? How do we enter into God as a refuge like the psalmists describe?

This psalm contains an answer: “Be still.” Few of us are facing the literal danger the psalmist describes. So how do we apply this to our lives today? There’s an old expression: God can only be experienced in the moment, in the present. So somehow we must “get still” inside regardless of the chaos outside. A powerful spiritual discipline to this end is from the tradition of Benedictine lectio divina.

Set a timer for at least 5 minutes and settle down in a chair. You can do this by yourself or with others. Say the phrase in 46:1 slowly and meditatively two times. It is important to hear the words, out loud or in your mind, not to read them. Ask God to highlight a word or phrase. Sit with it. Say the phrase again slowly, as if you are chewing on the words. Ask God to expand on the phrase, to “flesh it out.” Sit with it. Say the phrase again a third time slowly. Ask God, “How am I to respond to this?” If you are doing this practice with others, you can share your observations at each step.

You can find many resources on this spiritual discipline. https://www.thereligionteacher.com/lectio-divina-steps/ contains a helpful video on the practice. You can also play with this practice, as the whole idea is to let God speak through God’s word. Be still.