Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Morning Meds--Refuge

This morning's solstice dawn

“. . .for in you my soul takes refuge. 
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings 
until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1

A few campaigns ago, Minnesota had yet another bizarre gubernatorial candidate, someone who claimed to be a vampire.  Among the other promises he made to the electorate was a lapalooza no other bona fide candidate did: Jonathan Sharkey claimed he would, personally, impale convicted murderers and child molesters on the steps of the statehouse. That's sure to draw a crowd.  He’s a Satanist, he says, but he doesn’t hate Jesus, only God the Father for the violence he sanctioned throughout the Old Testament, including, presumably, and pre-Creation, tossing the Devil out on his ear.

Anyway, if Mr. Sharkey wasn’t just messing with us—which is possible—then I’m going to assume that his profession of faith was honest. When he was confronted with mountainous problems, as is David in Psalm 57, Shakey goes to Satan for refuge, not God, not Jesus, not Mohammed, not druids, booze, dope, romance novels, or, well, work.  We'll have to assume that his only comfort in life and in death is that he belongs, body and soul, to Satan; and if he were writing Psalm 57, he’d be talking to the Devil.

In 1867, Matthew Arnold started a poem with the line “The sea is calm tonight,” and ended with the assertion that, in what he saw to be the demise of faith, humanity might find refuge only in human devotion, in being true to one another—“I’ve got you, babe." That is yet another form of faith.       

In our land, we say, “whatever floats your boat.”  Faith comes in a thousand brands and creates myriad ways of finding refuge—or so it seems to me. 

It’s taken me some time to deal with the opening lines of Psalm 57 and this business of “refuge.”  I’ve heard tons of Christian testimonies in my life; I’ve felt refuge myself—God is, after all, our refuge and our strength. 

But there are oodles of ports-against-the-storm, aren't there? That’s why it seems to me that refuge may not be the story here--people claim refuge in a thousand havens; the real story, I think, is David’s absolute assurance.

“I trust him so much,” my catechism says, “that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.”  That’s the answer to the question which reads “What do you believe when you say:  ‘I believe in God the father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth?’”  I think King David would like that answer.

The take-away from the opening lines of Psalm 57 isn’t, simply, that good Christians take refuge in God, as David does here.  People find refuge all over the place. 

What’s remarkable is David’s absolute assurance that God will deliver him.  He’s convinced, totally convicted.  “Please have mercy on me,” he says, then repeats himself.  But then he delivers the confession:  “. . .for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Take this home with you from the battlefield: despite his own very human fear that God is not in the building, David, dangerously pursued by an enemy who has sworn to kill him, still has full confidence that that same God will deliver him.  The real story is David’s isn't his finding refuge, it's his gargantuan faith. That’s the homework of the first verse of Psalm 57, or so it seems to me.

But why does he have that kind of faith in God?—and why do I?—and why not Jonathan Sharkey? 

Such questions remain, to me and to all of us, a mystery of eternal proportions.

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