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