Our Refuge and Strength

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefor 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.

I cannot help ponder what it must feel like to be caught up in the recent spate of hurricanes, flooding, fires, and earthquakes reported in this northern hemisphere alone. Lives lost. Homes destroyed. Infrastructure compromised. Hunger and homelessness present. Someone yesterday quipped, "Well you know the Bible said these things are coming," even as another opined, "Climate change is upon us." What are we to believe? Sometimes the words of the Psalmist are hard. "Lord, we are perishing," the disciples cried out from their boat in the midst of a storm. And how many might wish a similar example of God being their refuge and strength when they exclaimed about Jesus: "even the winds and waves obey him" when he calmed both the storm and their fears. 

There are other storms of raging words and policy decisions that are stoking different kinds of fears for us nationally, and globally, even as world leaders gather in our city for the United Nations General Assembly. More than traffic jams are occurring. Is this the "new normal?" Are these the things that make for peace? Jeremiah warned against offering superficial treatment for the woundedness of people, thinking that would bring peace (Jeremiah 8.11).

In the midst of natural tragedies, untold saints search for storm and earthquake survivors, share whatever home, clothes, and food they have, help clean-up. "God is their strength." Across the nation, in our own city, people of faith gather because "God is their refuge" from forces that seem to tearing apart the values that build caring communities and they resist "principalities and powers" seeking to control what God requires of us. "Do justice, show kindness, walk humbly" - says God (Micah 6.8).

We have an Advocate for Justice Ministries who will begin working with our congregations in October. Daily, if we look, we will see people exhibiting acts of kindness from visiting someone in prison, feeding a hungry person, providing clothes for a person of little means, listening to a grieving son or daughter, teaching and nurturing a child, helping a person become more wok, bringing a little transformation into how persons and groups overcome personal and systemic -isms in which they and we are complicit. And as for humbleness, I had never before seen in a service of ordination a Presbyterian pastor in NYC take time to wash the feet of each elder and deacon before the whole congregation. 

Hold on. To what the Psalmist has learned but not without hardships experienced. Hold on. To what the prophet tells us is God's always "normal," resisting any "new normal" behaviors and policies that destroy lives and hopes. "You are the light of the world," said Jesus. "Let your light so shine before people that they see your good works and give glory to God." Thank you for being that light.

The Rev. Robert Foltz-Morrison