Monday, November 16, 2015

For Believers, Terrorism Has No Meaningful Message

In church yesterday morning our pastor did something he rarely does. In lieu of the terrorist attacks in Paris, he put his planned sermon aside and said he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to talk to us about what happened there and how it will affect us.

Dr. Marr assured us all that the evil, violent acts that were unleashed on Paris on Saturday would be coming to the United States in the future. Of that we can be certain, he told us. Then he went on to tell us he knows we didn't come to church that morning looking to be more depressed and worried than we already were. And that's when the sermon changed to one of hope and comfort.

He used the first 10 verses of the 91st Psalm, in which David said:

91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and bulwark.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Martin Luther used these very verses to write the famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Dr. Marr said early that morning, before he was even at the church, he had his assistant contact our Worship Pastor, who is in charge of selecting and preparing the music for the service, and ask him to put “A Mighty Fortress” on the list of music for the two services. As it turned out – that hymn had already been on the list for several days – since before the Paris attacks.

Dr. Marr said given that information he was more sure than ever that the Holy Spirit was leading him to talk about this particular topic. I must agree.

He talked about the word “bulwark,” a term rarely used in today's conversations. Bulwark us an old word meaning the extension of a ship's sides above the level of the deck, particularly on the old wooden ships, that made the ship safer and stronger. So a bulwark is a protector.

After reading the scripture, Dr. Marr reiterated that turning to the Lord, going into that secret place to pray; abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, will keep us safe and assured. He reminded us that no matter what happens in the world, Christians are like the guy who reads the last page of a novel first. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things may get – we know how the story ends. And for us it ends in victory and life eternal with our God. Of that we are assured.

I close with the first and last verse of that glorious hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

For believers these are words of comfort. We know that whether we die of old age, illness, accident, or even by a terrorist's hand, we will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. No matter what happens, our faith in Christ will sustain us and give us eternal life. What have we to fear?

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