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.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
The poet of Psalm 46 pictures un-creation. Everything that is solid and dependable – even the ground beneath our feet – trembles, shakes and roars.
I think of the terror of earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and wildfires. In an instant, whole worlds are devastated, turned upside down and inside out.
How can we not fear in the midst of such upheaval?
It is said that the encouragement not to fear is one of the most prevalent and consistent in the Bible. In the Genesis stories we hear God say to Abraham: “Do not be afraid; I am your shield….”and to Jacob: “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.”
In the prophets, we hear the Word of the Lord come to God’s people again and again:
But now thus says the LORD,(Isaiah 43)
the One who created you, O Jacob,
the One who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
In the New Testament stories, angels almost always introduce themselves to humans with the words: “Don’t be afraid.”
In our gospel reading for this week, it is Jesus who is pictured as the One who walks upon the “un-creation;” the One who stands above the chaos and darkness of the raging seas.
The disciples’ boat was far from the land, battered by the waves for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”Mark 6
“It is I” Jesus proclaims.
Fear as a human emotion is normal and common. Our emotions are linked to our experiences. We feel fear when this happens; we feel sad when that happens; we feel happy when something else happens. We humans can’t control these emotions since they come from our gut and not from the thinking, cognitive, choice-making part of our being.
But the Divine Encouragement addresses something deeper than either our intellect or our gut. Here is the life of faith. The way of trust.
In the core of our being, we affirm the foundational Presence of “I AM;” the “Present Help” and we place every circumstance of our lives within the context of that Unseen Unshakable Reality.
Even when we are afraid, we do not fear.
This is the confidence of Psalm 46.
Throughout Scripture, there is only one thing that is ours to “fear.”
So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…(Deuteronomy 10)
The One we love and serve with heart and soul is also always the One whom we cannot fathom; the One beyond our understanding and out of our control.
The psalmist calls us to “behold.”
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
The Lord makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
burns the shields with fire…
And the Psalmist calls us to “be still.”
It is only in this still place in the core of our being, that we can know the foundational Presence of “I AM.”
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I Am!
Be still and know that I Am God!
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
“Eye of the Hurricane” by Moyashi-chan