Assurance of God’s Protection
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.
A thousand may fall at your side,
Ten thousand at your right hand,
But it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
And see the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,[b]
The Most High your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
No scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
So that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
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.
~ Psalms 91 (NRSV)
When you hear the word “home,” what do you think of? Do you think of the place where you live right now? Maybe your childhood home? Possibly even this church? Or maybe more than a place, perhaps you imagine a group of people that make you feel at home no matter where you are. No matter how you imagine the concept of home, the idea of “home” usually carries with it a sense of emotion, because home, for most of us is something that we long for because it brings with it a sense of safety, warmth, and comfort.
Folks, we often talk about the fact that the world we live in can be overwhelming, and sometimes, we struggle with work and finances and even family. But for most, home is a place to relax at the end of a busy day. Some people live in an apartment or a condo, a duplex or a mobile home or a house. Some homes are big and others small, but usually home is welcomed break from the busyness of the world, and I hope that is true for you.
Sometimes, however, home can be a place of dysfunction and negativity, and rather than being a place that promotes rest and comfort, it brings with it fear and struggle. And for others, because of financial hardship and problems beyond their control, they find it difficult to even afford a place to call home.
Our scripture reading today comes from the Book of Psalms. As many of you know, the Psalms were written as songs or poems or prayers. The Book of Psalms is actually sometimes referred to as the ancient hymnbook of the people of Israel. We believe that the Book of Psalms was written by many authors, and the psalms were written in response to many different situations. But the entire Book of Psalms, from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150—did you know that there were 150 Psalms!—is filled with emotions. I think that’s why people tend to connect to the Book of Psalms and find comfort within its pages. As human beings, we experience countless feelings every day, don’t we? Feelings that range from exuberant joy to deep grief. We feel pain when a loved one dies. We feel anger when we don’t understand. And we feel joy when something good happens.
The Book of Psalms is all about emotions. The pages are filled with them: anger, confusion, joy, pain, humility, confusion, and contentment. And in the book of Psalms, all of those emotions are directed toward God. The best news of all is that it’s okay because God created each one of us with emotions, and God knows that our emotions are merely the way we connect with our feelings and react to the world around us.
Many people turn to the Book of Psalms because of its honesty. The songs and the prayers seem real because rather than ignoring their negative emotions or quickly condemning them as sinful, the writers face their feelings and continue to talk to God. The Psalms are also loved because of the clear picture of God that they present which teaches that. though our emotions change constantly, God is unchanging. While we fret and worry and shout about life not being fair, God remains calm. When we fall on our face because of poor choices and decisions that we have made, God isn’t surprised. God simply reaches out to us with unconditional love and offers us forgiveness and a chance to begin again. So, how are you feeling today? Are you angry, afraid, tired, or frustrated? Or are you joyful, happy, or excited? Well, however you are feeling, the Book of Psalms is the perfect place to visit!
Now today’s Psalm—Psalm 91—is named in our pew Bibles as “An Assurance of God’s Protection.” It tells us that no matter where go, God will watch over us. Many people also refer to Psalm 91 as the “Soldier’s Psalm” or “Soldier’s Prayer,” because it’s a reminder to soldiers that even when you are traveling and deployed away from home, God is not only watching over you, but God is your home.
Friends, in order to truly understand Psalm 91, we need to look at when and why it was written. It is believed that Psalm 91 was composed by Moses on the day he completed the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. What that means is that it was written when the people of God had been wandering in the wilderness without a home to call their own. They were homeless. They were lost. They were in exile searching for the promised land, a safe place to call their own. But even without a physical home, they were able to survive the rough terrain because of God’s protection. They longed for a place to call home, but they knew that they were blessed just the same, because of God’s love for them.
When we began today, I asked you to think about what comes to mind when you hear the word “home.” I’m sure that you all imagined something a little different, but I hope that you all know that, no matter what your earthly home looks like, you always have a heavenly home with God, a place that is safe and filled with love and hope and encouragement, in this life and beyond.
At the beginning of this school year, we started a new program called “Household Huddle.” For the past seven months, we have been gathering as a household on Sunday mornings out in Maxcy Hall during the hour before worship. We also gather as a household here in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings during worship, and some even gather as family and friends during the week for Household Huddles at home. One of the parts that I love the most when talking about Household Huddle is the wisdom of our children and the fact that, because they have grown up in a welcoming and affirming congregation and all their lives, they have been assured of God’s unconditional love for them. Their faith and their understanding of God is very clear. I love the conversations that come up in Household Huddle and the deep theological reflections that we have.
Often, when only a few of our friends come to church for Household Huddle, I usually start by reminding everyone that it’s okay that we are few in number because as Jesus tells us through scripture, whenever two or three are gathered, I am there among you. Well, each time I say that, it brings up a theological discussion with many of our preschoolers and elementary school students. When I remind them that whenever two or three are gathered, Jesus is there among us, they remind me what they have been taught all of their lives—that God is always with us whether we are gathered with others or we are all alone. That is the part that I love about our children. They get it! They understand the God that the Psalmist was talking about in today’s scripture—the God that is not only our protector and our deliverer, but also our comforter and our guide. God is always with us and is ultimately our home.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, remember that God is always with you. Though things may not always go your way and you may find yourself tired or angry or frustrated or asking “Why?” remember that God is your refuge and your strength. God holds you under His wings and in the palm of His hand. Know that you are loved and that no matter what your earthly home might be like your heavenly home is more amazing than you can ever imagine!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!