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Gospel Message and Sermon

September 25, 2016

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 You Are My Safe Place

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

The writer of this psalm has trust in God and sometimes we think that means everything in his life is going well. Scholars have determined that in the case of Psalm 91, nothing could be further from the truth. These images of the terror of the night and the arrow that flies by day might very well reflect the time when Israel was conquered by a foreign ruler and taken into captivity. And that’s why this Psalm is so powerful—when life is full of terror and destruction, God is there—our safe place.

The psalmist makes the move from terrible reality to joyful confidence. It is possible that the words of the psalmist are an attempt at self-help, self-coaching, self-talk. It is possible that the psalmist is just as frightened as any of us might be at the terrible circumstances of life in exile. But the words of this psalm are a vision of what might be, and as long as the psalmist can keep singing them, that joyful confidence begins to seep in, and eventually, claims the ground of reality.

Yesterday, the words of Parker Palmer came across my computer screen. He captures for us in our day what the psalmist was saying in his—words about how we find our safe place. He calls it sanctuary.

Today, after 77 years of life in a world that’s both astonishingly beautiful and horrifically cruel, “sanctuary” is as vital as breathing to me. Sometimes I find it in churches, monasteries, and other sites designated as sacred. But more often I find it in places sacred to my soul: in the natural world, in the company of a trustworthy friend, in solitary or shared silence, in the ambience of a good poem or good music.

Sanctuary is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival. Today, seeking sanctuary is no more optional for me than church attendance was as a child.

We live in a culture of violence. Even if we’re not at daily risk of physical injury or death, as are so many in the gun-obsessed U.S., our culture relentlessly assaults our souls with noise, frenzy, consumerism, tribalism, homophobia, racism, and more. It’s common to become desensitized to these assaults. We “normalize” them in order to get on with our daily lives, disregarding our need for sanctuary as we do. But at times something happens that makes us hypersensitive to all that threatens our souls.

As a person who aspires to live nonviolently — knowing I will forever fall short — I know I need sanctuary if I want loosen the grip of our culture’s violence on me.

Carrie Newcomer – Sanctuary

The song has already become a place of sanctuary for me. May it serve you that way as well.

Yes we have work to do…but we can’t do that work without renewing ourselves. As Parker said, we need safe space to regain our bearings, reclaim our souls, heal our wounds, and return to the world as wounded healers. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival. May we find safe space, sanctuary in each and every day so that we can love kindness and do justice and live with peace.