The Reformation is only about this:
The Lord Almighty Is With Us!
† In His Name †
May the peace of God, the peace which comforted Martin Luther and so many others who struggled with their own sin, and the sin of their time, bring you comfort and peace and stillness….
Luther’s Nightmares… do we have such?
Are our dragons… less?
It doesn’t matter which movie about Martin Luther’s life that you watch. There is always a scene which people find troubling,
Luther, not long after his ordination, is in his monk’s cell. It is late at night and time to sleep. Even though his confessor tells him there is nothing interesting in his confessions, Martin is tormented spiritually and emotionally. He rages against satan, and in grief and shame, against his own weakness.
The scene is violent, as Luther storms around the room, flailing and yelling, screaming at Satan, weeping over his own brokenness. He feels God’s wrath for the existence of sin in his life. In the movie made a little less than a decade ago, as Luther faces his own inability to overcome sin, he questions God. How can a just God create us so weak that we cannot overcome sin in our lives? Luther only saw God as just at the time, for that is how he was taught.
His mentor, His confessor, tries to share with Martin that God is love. The Augustinian Abbot sends Luther to Wittenberg specifically to study the New Testament, hoping that as Martin does find God’s mercy and love, and when he does, that which torments him will be replaced with peace.
It is the reading from Romans today, that Fr. Martin Luther finally realizes God’s love, and that Luther’s life has been entrusted to God, and therefore he can live in that trust.
Later, coming across the Psalm we chanted, in awe of the incredible grace and providence of God, Luther writes the incredibly Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
I think there are days, where I am much like Luther, I look at the challenges people face, in life, the challenges of lives hampered and damaged by sin, the anxiety, the suffering there are days where for a moment, the despair that Luther knew seems all to real.
Our hope is the same as Luther’s this Mighty Fortress, this incredible Lord of Heaven’s Hosts is with us. We will grasp
1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
As the Psalm moves on from that crucial first phrase into the second verse, I am reminded of a conversation this week. I had commented, “it’s simple – if you can’t run from your problems, you also can’t run from the One willing to bear those burdens.”
The response was that my comment was beautiful, but I wonder, if in thinking of the beauty of such thoughts, we reduce them to something not real, not practical, not for us.
I think we do this with Psalm 46, as well – we know we need to stop – give pause to the anxiety the world tosses at us, yet we find such a pause… disturbing, and we fill the silence, rather than stop… and stop our fighting God…and know peace.
The World is being tossed aside.
But Compare that to the Heavens streams
As I was saying the Psalmist moves from this brash statement, that because God is that refuge and strength, we need not fear – he has something in mind. He doesn’t get to it directly. He talks of a world devastated by natural disasters, of earthquakes and floods that we should have no fear of, of the disasters that make prior disasters we have seen look like summer rain showers, and 2.0 tumblers.
Even as violent as these storms are, as much as the world shakes, as the mountains collapse, the Psalmist calls our attention to a different body of water, instead of disaster though, this other seen is pastoral, peaceful, glorious.
4 There is a river— its streams delight the city of God!
the holy dwelling place of the Most High!
5 God is within her; she will not be toppled!
God will help her when the morning dawns!
Given the pause, the “selah” the break in the meter and psalm, the shift goes from the traumatic, the terrifying, to the peaceful, to the pastoral, to that which is kept and protected by the power of Almighty God – for it is where He dwells. That is the purpose of the Selah – a time and moment to pause…
To realize what this means – that God dwells in a place of peace, a place that cannot be toppled, a place that cannot be moved….
Could the Psalmist, looking forward to the promises of God, realize what God would have Paul write to the church in Corinth?
3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)
As we deal with the pause, the Selah, the interlude, can we realize that it is there – to help us transition from the trauma, from the pain, from the brokenness of the world that would send an overwhelming flood into our lives?
It is there the psalmist goes next, to reveal that the shaking and storms aren’t caused in the physical world, but in people, and in their lives.
The Nations Rage, and are tossed aside….
But like the world, all is shattered,
It’s time to be quiet, to stop fighting..it’s time to be still
6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple;
It is here that we begin to see the truth, it is not the mountains and oceans that cause us to be shaken, but people and kingdoms – whether we are talking about kingdoms as in nations, or the kingdoms of our homes.
It is therein we find our greatest shaking, our greatest pains, the greatest storms, and the storms that make us question life … and make us struggle – even as Luther would struggle in his cell.
How do we deal with our sin, with our failing when tempted, with our humanity, and the humanity and sin of others…as our earth quakes, …as they are shattered, even as the evil seems to surround us, to even drown us…
Not just evil as in slavery and murder..
But the evil of gossip and hated, of wanting to get revenge, of the pains of being betrayed, never mind the pain that comes from suffering from the overall weight of sin – even the things we are sure are sin, yet we feel guilt and shame as we endure them…
We might question our hope, our life, our salvation, we might even despair or fight God – accusing Him of unfairness because of what we must endure.
Luther knew this…feeling, this despair…
It is why Romans 3, and the concept of our living, trusting in God was such a revelation – it is not up to us to become the solution to our sin, to the brokenness of the world.
You see the context of that favorite beautiful sentiment, “Be still and know” is not just about being calm in the middle of external struggles, but our struggle with God.
Hear another couple of other translations….
46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
46:10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” Psalm 46:10 (TEV)
and I love what the great English pastor wrote n this..
That is the great theme of Psalm 46. The nations and their princes are all being addressed; these people who are arguing against God and querying whether there is such a God. ‘And listen’ says the Psalmist, ‘here is the God who makes wars to cease; this is the God who arises and vindicates himself.’ Then, having displayed his case, he says, ‘Be still,’ give up, give in, admit, ‘that I am God.’[i]
Be still, become, look, here is Almighty God! Here is the Lord of the Heavenly Host! He is here in all His power, in all His glory! Realize this with awe, even as He feeds you His broken body, and you drink His blood,
He is here for you, to protect you, to keep you, to guard your hearts and minds… for He dwells, not in a city made of hands, but among His people.
And therefore – we do not fear, we live in His peace….AMEN
[i] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1987). Revival (120). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.