Monday Matters (September 17, 2018)


 Psalm 46

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 end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

I suspect we each have memories that surface upon the anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks. For me, there are recollections from that time when I served at a church in Manhattan. I think of the numerous memorial services we conducted throughout the fall, services held not only at our church but in corporate conference rooms and fire houses.

There were services for Episcopalians. There were interfaith services. There were services for really religious people. There were services for a crowd of mixed traditions and theologies. There were services for people with no religious affiliation at all. There were services requested by grieving spouses. There were services commissioned by CEO’s for lost employees. In the face of an unprecedented demand for religious services of one kind or another, not knowing entirely how to find words, I remember that we turned again and again to Psalm 46, (above)

Last week, I was not only led to remember those months in Manhattan. We also spent the week awaiting Hurricane Florence here in North Carolina. I wrote this post in advance not sure of what Monday, September 17, would be like. And I had some time to write last week. I’ve heard it said that waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.

I confess that last week, I spent a sleepless night or two, imagining worrisome scenarios about this hurricane, probably not the most edifying thing to do. And then Psalm 46 came to mind. It had offered me comfort in the wake of terrorism exploding in my hometown. It had offered comfort in 2008 when the wheels seemed to come off the financial system. It had offered me comfort in countless pastoral situations, when it would have been easy to believe God was absent, or on vacation, or distracted, or dead. And it offered comfort as dire scenarios about this hurricane raced through my head in the wee hours of the morning.

I don’t remember many sermons, including my own, but a fine preacher I know offered a sermon after a natural disaster. In this case, the precipitating event was the tsunamis that caused devastation in South East Asia over ten years ago. She spoke of our need to be responsive to the thousands who experience these kinds of catastrophes wherever they happen around the globe. (That’s why I’m so grateful of the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development.) She also brought it home by reminding us (as if we needed reminding) that probably each one of our lives is marked by personal tsunamis.

So wherever you are, whatever storms you have weathered, whatever storms loom, hear the ancient words of the psalmist: Be still and know that I am God. Hear the words of Jesus who in the face of tempest said: Peace, be still. Hear him speak that peace into your heart, allowing you to withstand even if you can’t always understand.

-Jay Sidebotham


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