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Church: A Place for those in Trouble


Psalm 46: 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

As I write this morning, I can hear my daughter singing in the shower.  This is not an extraordinary situation. . . it is common practice for her.  She sings all the time.  This morning she is singing the song that we use in worship to introduce the gospel lesson, “Lord let my heart be good soil.  Open to the seed of your word.  Lord let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood. . . “ But just as quickly her song has changed to some pop tune she has heard on the radio.  This one I do not recognize.  But the song of the church is a part of her. . . it rings deep in her heart and soul.  She knows where she belongs and she knows how to find Jesus when she needs him.  The church has done that for her.

Why do I mention this?  I mention it because I am thinking about the nature of the church.  I am thinking about how we are shaped, formed and molded into disciples by what we see/feel/do/commit to in our parishes.  Through water and the word we are called and formed into followers of Christ. Through body and blood we are fed, nourished and forgiven at Christ’s table.  All of this creates a close community centered in the cross of Christ- a cross that was and is a sign of real trouble.  We are a people who gather around a symbol of death and annihilation.  Cheery when we put it that way, huh?  But the church is God’s way of clearly showing himself to believers.  Of course God is present to us everywhere, Christ is with us no matter where we find ourselves, but the church is the Bride of Christ, the one place we are promised to find him. Perhaps this is what the reformers meant when they defined the church as the place where the gospel is preached in its purity and the sacraments are rightly distributed.  Word and Sacrament are sure signs of Christ’s presence.

The Psalmist proclaims “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  So, is the church (that place where we are sure to find God) a place for the troubled?  Is the church a place where people can go when they realize suddenly that they are indeed in a real mess?  I might not have always thought so; it has seemed at times that the church is a difficult place to be when life goes off the rails.  I think it’s because of our own guilt/self-consciousness/fear rather than something the community of the Cross projects onto us.

Yesterday, there was a fight at the school down the street.  Someone called someone else a racist name and that second someone hauled off and punched the first.  He then walked himself to the office to report his violent deed.  He was kicked out of school- yesterday and today.  He walked into the church looking for someone (not me) who has been a presence in his life.  He saw her car and wanted to talk to her, to report the incident, maybe even to hear that someone still cared about him in all of this trouble he found himself in.  Even though he only worships with us on rare occasion he said to someone on the other end of his phone, “I’m at the church.”  Why? was the question that bounced back at him. “Because this is my church.”  This is where I go when I’m in trouble.  These are to whom I belong.  This is my church.

Thanks be to God!  Have a very blessed day and “be church” today and always for those who find themselves in trouble.



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