"Stop! Stop! Stop!"
Luke 10: 38-42
How many of you know the name Jesse Duplantis? At the age of 68, Jesse Duplantis remains one of
the most popular evangelical preachers in America. This Louisiana-based revivalist is blessed with a
rubber face, much along the lines of comedian Jim Carrey. Duplantis’ smile is radiant. His style is all
the way down home. With just a facial expression, he can double an audience of thousands over in laughter. I guess a good word to describe Jesse Duplantis is charming.
Although I don’t often agree
with the Biblical interpretation and theology he sprinkles into his performances, I sometimes watch because he’s….well….entertaining. He’s fun to watch. And to his credit, he can be thought-provoking in a humorous sort of way.
There is one thing that does bug me about “Brother Jess” as he likes to call himself. He never shuts up. From the moment he hits the stage until the rolling of the closing credits, his mouth is going mile a minute; so much so that he often doesn’t finish a sentence. Yet his audiences seem enamored by his rapid-fire approach to preaching. Perhaps that’s part of his appeal; that his listeners are never required to stop, and pause, and think, because there’s never a moment to stop, and pause, and think. Maybe that’s his allure. He caters to the American way which can be summarized in three words: Go! Go! Go! As we read the words of the 46th Psalm, we get a sense of God’s saying through the Psalmist: Stop! Stop! Stop! Chill. Take a quiet moment, and think…..reflect….. contemplate……..
The opening verses of this beloved Psalm lay out the reality of the world in which we live. Some commentators have suggested that one layer of meaning is God’s assurance that God will preserve His people even during the cosmic disasters of the latter days. The prophet Joel says as much when he writes: “And the Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” In the cosmic sense – in the realm of nature -- things move fast. Changes come as quickly and without warning as a tsumani comes when the earth violently quakes below the relative calmness of the sea’s surface. Suddenly, its waters are – in the Psalmist’s language – “Roar(ing) and foam(ing).” The very earth is trembling and tumultuous, sometimes knocking us off our feet or washing the ground right out from under us. How much we live in the fear of the unexpected where nature is concerned.
On another level, this ancient language is powerfully metaphoric for what every generation faces in its rapidly changing world. There is, for example, the diagnosis of illness which comes upon us with
no warning. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, not only knocking us off our feet, but frequently
changing the very course of our lives. Death, too, is often so sudden that we have no chance to prepare, left only in a state of shock and disbelief. Disasters, natural or otherwise, rarely send an advanced calling card.
Yet in the midst of this trembling and tumult is a call from the Psalmist to seek refuge in quietness, peace, and assurance of God’s presence. Between verses three and four (and again between verses seven and eight) is what’s called a “selah.” As the Psalm was meant to be sung, the selah indicates a
pause in the singing, and possibly an instrumental interlude. Then following is a mood shift, almost
like a change to a different musical key. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.” Here is extended an invitation to, in a sense, lie back into the
very arms of the Almighty. We can almost imagine ourselves lying on our backs in a raft on a serene
and gently flowing river of waters, crisp and clear; looking into the sky, and knowing that in spite of all
the things changing, roaring, foaming around us, we have a place of respite and blessed quietness.
Why? Because “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early” (or
some translators render it: “God will help her right away,” or “at the break of dawn”). Simply stated, God is with us. The One whose very voice could cause the earth to melt – every molecule to disjoin – meets us in the center of all the craziness – the noise, the changes, the rapid fire of life – and
says, “Sit and stay a spell. Take a quiet moment…..and think…..and reflect…..and contemplate.”
There is probably no better New Testament example of this than the day Jesus went to visit at the
home of sisters Mary and Martha. There is Martha, running around like the proverbial chicken with
its head cut off; making preparations; getting everything in order; seeing to every tiny detail. Several
stray hairs dripping with perspiration frame her face as she complains to Jesus: My sister is so lazy,
just sitting there like the queen bee. Rabbi, doesn’t it bother you that she’s not helping me? But Jesus
surprises his harried friend when he says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled
about many things.” Why not take a cue from Mary and chill. Take a quiet moment…..and think…..
and reflect…..and contemplate. Give yourself a little quiet time. This is “the good portion, which shall
not be taken away.” Why must it always be go! go! go! Martha my dear, stop! Stop! Stop!
“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Following these words of the Psalmist is another selah. Then yet again, the majesty and absolute power of the Lord is contemplated:“Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, he burns the shields (or in some transitions ‘chariots’) with fire!” This seems to be a prophetic word, looking ahead to the time when God will bring an end to the nonsense of this world in which we live; when all trembling and tumult, disaster and tragedy, natural and otherwise will come to a terminal end.
Then come the words I deem the centerpiece of this entire 46th chapter; God’s words: “Be still,……
and know…..that I am God.” How many a poem and song have been inspired by these words. And
herein lies the challenge for every generation; especially to ours living in a time which has become, in
the words of an old song by the Temptations, a “ball of confusion.” If we hope to find “refuge,”
“strength,” “a very present help in trouble;” if we hope to experience the very presence of God in the
midst of us, we must “Be still, and know that (God) is God.” A great tragedy for most people, and I
daresay for most people of faith, is that we’re conditioned by noise, busyness, the likelihood of sudden change, and worry about it all. We’re all about go! go! go! We just don’t know how to get quiet; how to be still. Like ole Brother Jess, we barely stop to menuha; to catch our breath. We don’t pause and give ourselves time to think, reflect, contemplate on the Lord.
I don’t suggest for a minute that this is an easy thing to do, vital as it is. Such ‘being still’ must be
intentional and deliberate. We need to recondition ourselves, even if it means shutting off the television or radio for a while; putting down our cellular devices or setting our computers on standby. In an effort to bring all this into some sort of practical perspective, let me offer three starting points to cultivating quiet, reflective time into your life. And all three begin with the assumption that it will not be time wasted (as the world might label it), but time well-invested.
Starting point one: Find a time and place which is quiet, and where you won’t be interrupted by
the world’s craziness. You may be thinking: ‘Right pastor. How long does it take to get to Antarctica?’
Ladies, you all don’t have to go very far at all. In just a few weeks will be opportunity for a retreat – a
spiritual getaway for women at the Amish Door. You can still get in on that today. The Martha’s
among us may protest: “I don’t have time! There’s too much to do!” Jesus answers today: “You are
worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing….the better part……..”
That is, in part, what such a retreat provides; an intentional time to chill; to take a quiet moment to
think…..reflect…..contemplate. For the men folk, and for the women who cannot avail themselves of
this opportunity, carve out devotional and contemplative time. Find that quiet place. Open your
Bible and read it. Do it daily. The point is to be still, and try to get in touch with who God is. You’ll be
amazed how God will reveal God- self to you in those quiet and contemplative moments. The invitation is extended. But it must ultimately be a conscious act of will to “Be still and know……..”
Starting point two, and this model actually comes from my daughter Vicki. Go out into your back
yard, or onto your patio, or out on your roof if not too steeply-pitched, or in the case of Vicki when
she still lived at home, the ramp of your shed. Lie on your back and look into the night sky. Look to
the vast expanse of the galaxy; the stars; the moon; the wonders of God’s universe….. and chill. Again
your thoughts will turn to God as you, in the Psalmist’s words: “…..look at (God’s) heavens, the work
of (God’s) fingers, the moon and the stars that (God has) established.” In those quiet moments, give
thanks for your life; your family; your stuff; all your blessings. Pray for a loved one or a friend. Pray
for an enemy. Pray for someone you don’t know other than by name. Then, “Be still….and know….
that (God) is God.” You will be delighted how God will bring things to you in that stillness.
Starting point three: Come by the church. Yes, we are regularly open Monday through Friday.
There is usually no one in the sanctuary unless Char is filling candles or Leigh is giving a music lesson.
Find your Sunday morning seat, or someone else’s Sunday morning seat (Yep, you can get away with
that during the week.) You’ll find this sanctuary a quiet, and might I say inspiring place. God, of
course, is everywhere. But there is a real sense of the sacred in this room – in community on Sunday
mornings, and for your personal thoughts…..reflections…..contemplations….. Sit in the pew and take
in the beauty of the stained glass. Lie on a pew and be inspired by the dome. Climb to the balcony
and view the expanse of this beautiful house of worship, which we pray will look even more beautiful
this time next year. Focus on the beautiful cross Walker Smith crafted, or just close your eyes and let
God carry you on that “….river whose streams make glad the city of God.” You’ll be comforted with
a sense that the Almighty has you metaphorically wrapped in God’s strong arms. You’ll find that the
“Lord of hosts is with (you)”; that “the God of Jacob is (your) refuge.”
So in a world of Go! Go! Go!, why don’t we make an intentional effort to Stop! Stop! Stop!, and
“Be still and know that (God) is God.” Choose what Jesus calls “the better part, which will not be
taken away from (Mary),” or from any of us. This leads to wisdom and knowledge which will surely
help us in those times of trouble; will allay our fears living on this changing earth; will help us right
away, even as “The nations are in an uproar,” and “the kingdoms totter.” And what do we know
other than that “(God) is God”? The Psalmist states it for the second time in the 11th verse. On this
we close: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Amen.