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      God, our refuge and strength

      A Reformation Sunday Sermon November 1, 2022 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
      Filed Under:
      Pr. Sebastian

      Psalm 46 has been called "The song of songs of Faith” (Kittel) and it probably ranks up there with Psalm 23 in popularity.

      In 1529 after Vienna was released from the siege of the Turkish army, 

      Luther wrote his version of Psalm 46, 

      entitled a Mighty Fortress is our God.

      (Working Preacher James K. Mead)

      I don’t know about you, but singing this song after-2020 

      in this age of COVID, 

      it rings rather differently.

      We might rather sing: a Mighty fortress is our K95 mask, or

      A mighty fortress is our bivalent vaccine,

      Or for others, a mighty fortress is our Freedom Convoy.

      We need a mighty fortress to protect us from a lot these days:

      The shadow of the 6 million Coronavirus deaths worldwide,

      The Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Christian Nationalism and other U.S. evils,

      The war in Ukraine and murmurings of nuclear catastrophe.

      There is so much to fear, 

      All these bad things are happening, 

      But where else could we find refuge and strength?

      Should we:

      Hire a bodyguard, take a self-defence class, 

      live in a gated community or at least a condominium with professional security?

      Live in a hut in the forest away from civilization,

      Hide money in one’s mattress?

      In 1965 the Beatles sang Help! I need somebody! 

      Not just anybody,! Help! You know I need someone!

      The cry for help is the universal cry,

      Every human, whether baby or 90-year old yells out “help!” 

      And seeks out assistance of some sort.

      Who can we turn to?


      is our refuge and strength a very-present, actual, real (well-proved) 

      help in trouble.

      God is our refuge and defence (a strong tower) the Psalmist claims,

      and we struggle to claim this too.

      How can we say God is our refuge and strength

      With any conviction?

      Agnostics would say “I dunno:

      Scientists would say “this is a thesis to be proven or disproven.”

      But at the end of the day, it boils down to our experience of faith.

      Do we see miracles in everyday occurrences?

      Are we open to seeing God work in heaven-sent ways?

      That unexpected government cheque…could we thank God for that?

      Having had a mild illness or recovering well from surgery…

      could we say God is our strength?

      Life is sometimes too difficult and it’s just too easy to be pessimistic, 

      to give up, and moan “what’s the point?”

      But the lonely people need refuge,

      And the insecure folks need strength ,

      And fear corrupts the souls of those who don’t have a secure foundation.

      Have you ever experienced a real earthquake?

      Supposedly the experience is absolutely terrifying, 

      and something that cannot be described, 

      although pictures and videos do it some justice.

      Normally when we walk, sit or stand, we trust that the earth is firm, and all our assumptions for movement are based on this. 

      But what if the Foundation is gone?

      And there is no firm basis that we can stand on:

      There is nowhere to flee in an earthquake, as the shaking is all over.

      The Psalmist continues his claim:

      Therefore we will not fear (though the earth should change or be dissolved,though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, and cause a tsunami).

      Even though there may be Cosmic threats ,

      (The mountains in the ancient world were considered to be pillars that held up the sky and anchored the dry land)

      We will not fear.

      (Working Preacher, J. Clinton McCann Jr.)

      Really, we all want to live without fear,

      It is a human dream.

      But the politics of fear and the media’s appetite for fear, seem to pursue our human existence,

      Whether we like it or not.

      What is your fear?

      What do you fear most?

      Loss of health, of loved ones, loss of autonomy?

      How do you deal with your fear?

      We all have to get up everyday, despite our problems,

      Everyone’s got problems, 

      but how do you manage your fear, how do you cope?

      There are multitudes of coping strategies, some helpful, some not,

      We can deny our fears, or laugh at them, 

      Or resort to escaping reality and immerse ourselves in TV and social media

      But the message of this Psalm is not to play down the threats 

      or deny them,

      But to say: although life is sometimes terrifying, 

      nevertheless I will choose to not be afraid. 

      Despite these terrible things, I will nevertheless not be paralyzed by fear.

      And how can we declare this statement of faith?

      What is our foundation for this self-talk to “not be afraid”?


      The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

      The Lord of hosts: the God who commands the heavenly armies, is the same God as the Lord of Jacob; the personal, relatable God, the God who loves and cares for humans.

      This God is with us.

      We shall not fear because of divine accompaniment,

      Because God promises to be with us.

      In a way that it sometimes mysterious, 

      and sometimes in ways in which we cannot understand, 

      That is so well expressed in that famous poem

      Footprints in the Sand:

      One night I had a dream.I dreamed that I was walking along the beach with the Lord.Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;one belonging to me and the other to the Lord.

      When the last scene of my life flashed before me,I looked back at the footprints in the sand.I noticed that many times along the path of my lifethere was only one set of footprints.I also noticed that it happened at the very lowestand saddest times of my life.

      This really bothered meand I questioned the Lord about it.

      “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,you would walk with me all the way.But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,there is only one set of footprints;I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me”.

      The Lord replied, “My child, my precious, precious child,I love you and would never leave you.During your times of trial and suffering,when you see only one set of footprints,it was then that I carried you”.

      We have nothing to fear for God is near,

      That is the message of this Psalm of trust.

      God’s reign is universal, which gives us hope beyond what seems to be infinite, 

      but actually isn’t: God is beyond all that is, above, and before, 

      God is the stability amidst the chaos,

      The firm foundation and defence in the face of destruction and fear.

      God says: “Be still and know that I am God (you will be helped, don’t doubt, don’t fear”

      I will walk beside you and sometimes, I will carry you.

      God is near now ,

      so in the future he will be too!


      This all may seem silly to some, and foolish to others,

      And we know that we’re not always able to feel God’s presence 

      and refuge and strength,

      We know that we don’t live in a utopia, and that trouble still happen, 

      there is no easy guarantee to worry-free living.

      But this blessed assurance of God our sure defence,

      Is a least something to grasp a hold of, something to anchor our lives when the earthquakes of this world seem to tear everything from under our feet.

      At least in those times we can whisper, even with a tremble in our voice:

      “God is my refuge and strength.”

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