The following sermon was my second sermon, delivered to a small crowd on a particular Sunday at the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, WI in 2015.

A Stillness As of late, I have taken a liking to a song by a band called “The Naked and Famous”. Yes, a rather odd name for a band, but since I am neither naked nor famous, I figured that it was something that I might like hearing. On their latest album, there is a song entitled “A Stillness”, after which I named this sermon. The chorus of the song has the lyrics “Still, still, be still.” Those four words really shook me when I first heard them. Recently I’ve had several things go wrong on me, including having to leave my home because of my father’s alcoholism. Just this week, I remembered that I hadn’t started this sermon yet, and it’s VBS week at Federated. And this psalm and song is telling me to be still? How do you expect me to do that? As a college student, I find myself with no time to be still. Heck, if I was still, I would still be crying myself to sleep in the corner of the library surrounded by books and numerous to-do lists. That’s the thing, though. That’s why the psalmist wrote those words. Because when things are the most tough, all we have to do is be still and know that he is God. Well, let’s back up. Why is that what we have to do? The beginning of this psalm tells us — God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is present with me as I’m crying in sheer agony over finals. God is present with us whenever we are in trouble. Refuge is a word that means a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble. While God truly is always there for us, he’s also always there whenever we need him the most. Whenever our family member is suffering from alcoholism. Whenever we’re afraid to deal with the things that scare us most — God will give us the strength we need and the safety we need to continue about our lives the way he intends for us. Fear is brought up in verse 2. “We will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”. That’s a pretty strong statement, considering if the mountains really retreated into the ocean I think I’d be pretty scared. Or dead, considering that would likely rise the level of the ocean enough to the point where I’d drown. But what truly can we be afraid of? Why should we fear anything, if God gives us strength and refuge? I was informed by one of my coworkers recently that there exists a disease, called the Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease caused by what’s called a Prion — these little infectious particles that are similar to proteins that can suddenly lose their shape and then can no longer be broken down by an enzyme. So, it just kind of hangs out and eventually infects more cells in the brain until your brain is essentially swiss cheese. I’m glad none of you are eating right now, because that’s kind of gross, and honestly quite scary. But even though that is extremely scary, God gives you strength and refuge. Even though this prion can just suddenly end up in your food and infect you, God assures us that we have no reason to be afraid. We have nothing to fear, even though the earth falls away and the mountains recede into the ocean. The psalm continues by saying that there is a river flowing through the city of God, obviously Jerusalem. Now, on the list of things that are still, a river is not one of them. Quite the opposite, in fact — a river flows quite freely and rapidly, just as God’s protection does. We are able to be still next to the river of love and protection that God provides for us. When you know that God lives in the river, the city, and in all things, you know that you are safe. The message translation of verse 5 reads “God lives here, the streets are safe, God at your service from crack of dawn.” Before you even get up to go to work and carry on your day, God is working to protect all of us. Be still, and know that God has you exactly where he wants you — safe. God will help her at the break of day, verse 5 continues. Just as God helped the people of Jerusalem in 2nd Kings, where the people arose in the morning to find many Assyrians dead, he will help you from the break of dawn. Now, I’ll admit, this might not seem like something that always happens. For example, Thursday was not a good morning for me. I got up and did my morning routine, along with making my lunch for the day. I had to open the new block of cheese that was there, so of course I used a knife. Of course, I proceeded to disregard everything my parents told me and started opening the block towards me, and I can confirm that it isn’t quite a good idea. The band-aid around my finger took the place of God and kept me safe after that moment, or so I thought. But that is not the case- even when it seems like God isn’t there, throughout the night and in the morning when you wake up, he is just the opposite. Some days you will wake to the Assyrians being dead and other days you will wake and almost chop your finger off, but God is with you and is keeping you safe, all you have to do is be still and know that he is. On the deck of the house that I am currently staying at, there is a wind chime that plays just constantly the most beautiful tones I’ve really ever heard. On Saturday I decided to sit outside near the wind chime and do what God told me to do, be still. The wind was quite blustery that day, but even through the large amount of wind that blew, there was still that wind chime playing its tones. The wind may be loud and distracting, but we have to seek out God’s presence in that wind. We have to be still and listen for what he is doing. Just how are we reminded that God is doing what he says? According to verse 6, all God has to do is raise his voice. Many nations were in uproar, the psalmist writes. Kingdoms fall, earthly realms fail due to people but God rises above this and simply raises his voice and, as the message version of the psalm states, “the earth does anything he says”. I’m sure that if God were to truly raise his voice today that all of the hatred, all of the racism, all of the injustice that is happening today on this earth would cease entirely. But until then, we need to be still and listen to what God is telling us, for until he raises his voice to the entire earth we must listen first to what he is saying to us, so that we may take action against the hatred, the racism and the injustice ourselves and make the earth melt through us. When I preached in Kansas City for the biennial, I preached on having courage no matter what storms come your way. That sermon was on the story of Paul who was on a roman ship in Acts 27. Paul noticed everyone was stubborn and kept going even though there was a storm brewing, and even after he told them that it was going be rough. And then when the storm came, he told everyone to have courage through it. God was not punishing them, in this case. Through that entire story, God was doing the exact opposite of punishing them, he was protecting them. In Psalm 46, we still don’t see a vengeful God, even though it says in verse 8 of this psalm to notice the desolations that he has brought. What God is doing here is bringing the desolations to frustrate evil. Once human evilness was defeated, God was victorious and could enact a time of peace. Sometimes, it does take true desolation and destruction to accomplish peace. It only seems to work, unsurprisingly, when someone not human, such as God does it. And then, we finally reach the point that struck me the most. The psalmist writes, “He says, Be still, and know that I am God”. Alright, so we just read about how God brought desolation to the earth, and how he breaks the bow and shatters the spear and all of this other destruction that he brought, and he wants me to be still? Once again, how do you expect me to do that? Well, that’s just the thing. When I first read the scripture, I thought that it was about me having to be visibly still. Or, better yet, my heart to be still. While that is indeed something to be, especially in great times of stress, that was not the idea that the psalmist was trying to convey here. Instead, God wants us to be still in terms of conflict. We come off a long statement about how God ends conflict and enacts a time of peace. While God is there to protect us and keep us safe, he cannot do everything for us. As much as we would like to think so and take advantage of the grace God gives us to get everything from God, there are times when we need to take matters into our own hands and act on it ourselves. This portion of the psalm describes those times. To truly end all conflict, we all need to be still. We need to cease conflict. Not just a select few people, either. Every human on this earth must be still. We all need to cease the hatred, the racism and the injustice in order for God to enact his time of peace. We are to be still because we know that he will be the one to end all of the conflict because he is the true king of kings. No matter what human institution we put in place to try and end the conflict, he is the one who ultimately will end it all. He can’t do that unless every single one of us are still and every single one of us knows that He is the true king. Only then will he be exalted among the nations and all the earth. However, there are times that it is indeed necessary be visibly and physically and emotionally, still. Sometimes, it is much better to simply just be silent and think and know, rather than panicking and stressing and trying to change things that you cannot change. Another word for being still is being serene, or having serenity. There is a prayer that is said at many twelve step programs called the serenity prayer and the wee version, as they call it, says “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference”. This prayer was adopted by many 12 step programs in the hope that it would provide them with the ability to be still and know that everything would be okay and that they would make it through their addictions with the help of God, for he is the one that grants us our refuge and strength. It is not often that we see God present in our lives when we are doing nothing but going. As I said previously, it was VBS week at Federated and even though I was going to church every night, I still don’t feel like I felt God much at all in my life. Unless we get the opportunity to be still and know that he is present, we will indeed never know that He is there. Sometimes, being still does not just find its way into our lives. Sometimes, we have to force ourselves to be still. Yesterday, I had to force myself to take a nap, and afterwards my pastor who I’m living with at the moment said to me “Well, maybe that’s the stillness you needed”. It is an absolute necessity to be still through all the stress because “be still and know” is a very circular phrase, in my opinion. You cannot know without being still. If you’re rushing around doing things all of the time you have no idea what God is doing in your life. You also cannot be still without knowing that He is God. He grants us the refuge and strength to be still, and without that there will always be turmoil and conflict in the streets of the earth. In the words of the band Naked and Famous, still, still, be still. For as verse one says, God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Be still and listen to what God is telling you. Be still and observe what he is doing in your life and realize what power he is giving you, to help you fear nothing. Be still and know that now that he is holding you in the palm of his hand and will end all conflict. Be still in your being, be still in your heart. Be still and know that He is God. Amen.