MONDAY MUSINGS - TUESDAY EDITION
October 20, 2020
A mighty fortress is our God,
a sword and shield victorious;
he breaks the cruel oppressor's rod
and wins salvation glorious.
The old evil foe,
Sworn to work us woe,
With dread craft and might
he arms himself to fight.
On earth he has no equal.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #503]
The readings for Sunday, October 25, 2020, Reformation Sunday, are as follows:
This Sunday, Lutherans the world over observe the Reformation. Some may wait until the actual date of October 31, but for the most part, those of us in the United States will honor the commemoration on the fourth Sunday in October.
It is a day in which it is worth remembering and re-hearing a little bit of the history behind this day, not so much as a history lesson, but as to how it relates to God's promises to us.
The message of Reformation Sunday is God's love for us. It is a love that frees us and redefines us as people of God and as members of the whole body of Christ.
The readings are the same each year so the temptation to preach the same sermon is nearly irresistible. However, this year is not identical to years past. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed over 215,000 lives in this country alone and shows no signs of slowing down.
So a fresh approach to this Reformation Sunday is most definitely in order.
And of all the readings, perhaps none lends itself more appropriately to the dangers we are facing today than Psalm 46. It is the psalm that speaks most profoundly to our situation.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea;
The psalms are sometimes called the prayer book, or the hymn book, of the Bible. The Psalter, or the collection of 150 psalms, was Jesus' prayer book. They speak to us across the ages. We see ourselves in them, and know that we are not the first to go through such things. And that is tremendously comforting. In the midst of overwhelming circumstances in life that threaten to consume us, where is our refuge and strength?
Let me also emphasize to you that I love Psalm 46. It is among my favorites. It is one that I probably read most often to parishioners when I would visit them in hospitals and nursing homes. I personally find it a source of comfort and assurance. From the beginning sentence, there is no question that the psalmist who wrote this was convinced of the fact that, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
The hymn, "A Mighty Fortress," written by Martin Luther, traces its Biblical origin to Psalm 46.
And notice three key words in the very first verse: refuge, strength, and help.
These words are written by someone who most assuredly has faced the trials and tribulations of life. The message of the Psalm, like the Reformation hymn, is security amid great turmoil because of God's presence. The psalm ends with the words, "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold."
The promise of God's protective presence is not a guarantee of an easy, care-free existence. Rather, the promise of God-with-us comes in the midst of trouble.
We can look at Psalm 46 both on an individual level and as a community.
From an individual standpoint we can find in it a personal confidence to enter into a relationship of dependence upon God, to find ultimate security in God. We turn to God in time of crisis, in the hour of need, when our own resources have dwindled down to nothing. Perhaps it is only in times like this that we realize how small and powerless we truly are.
But perhaps never more than now, when we are going through a global crisis, do we look at Psalm 46 from a collective or communal standpoint.
Yes, we are afraid, and well we should be. But it is not a paralytic fear, because deep in our hearts we have the assurance that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46 promises that God is "with us." In the midst of the turmoil, God offers a point of stability.
Luther found in Psalm 46 the inspiration, courage, and energy to resist forces that seemed irresistible; and his resolute stand changed the Church and changed the world. So, the psalmist and Luther together remind us that all things are possible with God! Therefore we will not fear.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is extremely light:
Thursday: Conference of Bishops weekly Check-In
The next Northeastern Ohio Synod Rostered Ministers Monthly Gathering will be Wednesday, November 4, 2020, beginning at 10 a.m. Please email the synod office (email@example.com) or contact your conference Dean for the link.
Next week's Monday Musings will be the final issue. This will allow me to devote my time to transitional matters and take some unused vacation time during my final month in office. I can't adequately express how grateful I am for all your kind comments about how this weekly offering has touched many of you. It am humbled that it had such a positive effect. Please know that it has been a joy to communicate with you in this manner, and to know that you have found these reflections helpful and hopeful to you.
Our closing prayer is the Prayer of the Day is a prayer of Martin Luther, and is found on page 87 of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal.
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give. Amen.
+Bishop Abraham Allende