Be Still and Know

Blog Post by Rev. Robert Jensen
Bridge Presbytery Leader


Last Wednesday, as the mob siege of the US Capitol was unfolding, I sat transfixed in the presbytery office in shocked grief like so many people.  And as I traveled home that evening, these words kept passing through my mind and heart: 

…though the earth should change, though the mountains shake, 
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. 

Clearly our world was shaking and so was I.  And in this state of mind, even though I knew the words and knew I had shared them with countless people, at that very moment, I could not remember the rest of the quote or where they came from.  

When I finally arrived home, I was, of course, embarrassed to be reminded these words are  from Psalm 46, prefaced by a most sure promise:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear… 

I guess I really needed to “be still and know that I am God!” (v. 10) in that moment.  

In a time where it feels as though we are living with multiple assaults in the form of a relentless disease, a tremendous lack of will toward defeating it, intractable racial injustice abounding, an economy cratering in the face of the pandemic, a safe and legal election threatened, and on and on it goes, this promise from the psalmist is an important word of comfort.  Or, as Martin Luther put it, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” 

When our world is shaking, it is easy to forget the promises of God, the one who walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.  So it is important for us to lift up this good news at a moment like this. 

Yet it is not enough.  It is never enough. 

Besides accepting and celebrating the promises of God, we are always called to do something, to be something, as people committed to following Jesus Christ, the one who came not to be served but to serve.  Its why the Matthew 25 initiative is so important to me, enlisting us to be at the forefront of building vital congregations, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty. 

I have long loved the three stories that make up Matthew 25.  They are so simple in their claim, yet profound in their effect.  Be prepared, use what you have, focus your efforts on those whom society forgets or rejects. 

A quote often mistakenly attributed to Theodore Roosevelt says, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”  It’s a bit of folksy wisdom, but one that can have profound consequence. 

It is easy to become immobilized by the sheer magnitude of the needs around us.  Dismantle structural racism?  Eradicate systemic poverty?  Me?  Impossible! 

But the quote won’t let us go that easily.  You can’t do everything for justice?  Do something for justice!  You can’t solve poverty?  Do something about poverty! 

For me over the past year this has meant working on preparation like the 10 bridesmaids, taking time to learn more about privilege and how it has influenced not only the opportunities afforded me in life, but how it has influenced my thinking and actions, as well.  I still have a long way to go.  But I am committed to learning and to listening. 

I’ve also been blessed to being involved in a congregation-based ministry working with Belleville-area families in crisis. 

Neither of these will dismantle racism or eradicate poverty.  But maybe they can begin to dismantle my racism and ease poverty where I am.  

This is the call of the gospel in uncertain and difficult days.  Hear and be comforted, yes!  But also hear and be moved to action. 

Rev. Bob Jensen
Bridge Presbytery Leader
rjensen@glpby.org

 

4 Responses to “Be Still and Know”

  1. James Willock on

    Well said, Bob. Thank you for sharing your experience of vulnerability in this turbulent moment of history, and for reminding us that we the church are called to be vulnerable as our Lord Jesus Christ was vulnerable, trusting in God’s strength and presence when the foundations of the world around us shake. The least of those children of God named in Matthew 25 – brothers, sisters, siblings of Jesus Christ – those who live each day with hunger or homelessness or illness or as prisoners – are a powerful witness to what it means to trust in God.

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  2. Barbara G Willock on

    Welcome to this ministry, Bob!
    I so appreciated your introduction on Saturday and look forward to your leadership.
    I have been surprised by what I now find an aspect of my call to be : to include in the books of family history I am preparing for my grandchildren, great-nephews and -niece, and other family members a clear statement of how our ancestors interacted [as much as I can discover it, enhanced by historical records about the place where they were living] with both Indigenous peoples and with enslaved people. The church has helped me begin to explore and name my white privilege and I feel compelled to help my family understand that our wealth and position has come in large part from that white privilege.
    As a Minister of Word and Sacrament I have always understood a major part of my role to be to “keep the story straight.” As an American history major, I now realize that we haven’t even told the story, and much of what we are experiencing now is because you can’t keep a story you don’t know straight. I mean to change that at least in a small way.

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  3. Nancy Gillard on

    Thank you for this message. I found it to be comforting, inspiring and motivational. Each week I share a midweek message for the First Presbyterian Church in Clinton. This week, after I read your message, I used it for our midweek message. Many blessings to you and my G-L friends.

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  4. Diane McCullough on

    Bob, thank you so much for your heartfelt and inspiring message. I am looking forward to working with you as we forge ahead (the DRAP TEAM) to dismantle racism and privilege in our hearts and the organizations we touch – doing whatever we can, wherever we can. Peace and Blessings!!

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