1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Martin Luther wrote the line: “A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from every need That hath us now o’ertaken.”
I wonder if part of his inspiration came from this Psalm, which speaks of God as our fortress: a place of safety and of refuge in times of trouble, times of war, bad weather, or disease, a place where we can come together and feel protected from the trials and dangers of life…a place where we can find a rest and renewal!
After all, what is a fortress, if not a safe place to gather, to re-group and to come together; for not only was a fortress a place of refuge, but it was also a place of celebration, as in Luther’s time, the fortress was at the center of the community! This was not lost on the church; note how many of the Medieval Cathedrals resemble fortresses, with their high stone walls, the carvings and the flying buttresses!
Both Luther and the Psalmist knew what they were talking about when they compared God to a fortress: steadfast, and a gathering place where all of God’s children could find safety and joy together!!!
Our homes can also be like a fortress, a place of security and celebration, a place where life is lived to it’s fullest…a place where God’s presence can be felt as we live our faith out loud on a daily basis, and share that faith with each other! Any good parent would want their home to be a safe place, a place where our children, and ourselves, can find a refuge from the challenges of the world; as well as a place where we can enjoy our lives together!
That sounds so nice, but there are times when reality does not quite live up to our hopes!
As single parents many of us have discovered that home may not always a peaceful place of refuge, as it can become pretty hectic as we struggle to meet the challenges of raising our children, while holding a household together and managing our work and social lives. Sometimes just dealing with the day to day can keep us so busy that it leaves us feeling stressed and exhausted. Sometimes going to work can feel like a relief, and going home can almost be like going to another job.
For those of us who have had a rough time with our kids as they grew into teen-agers and young adults, our homes can go from just noisy and hectic, to downright tumultuous! There could be loud and emotional arguments that can sometimes turn physical; there could be bad behavior, school problems, issues with drugs and drinking…which can lead to dealings with law enforcement and other consequences. If faced with any of these issues, we could find ourselves living in fear and turmoil, losing sleep, and losing hope…and our homes can no longer feel like a safe place, and we can feel like there is no fortress where we can find refuge.
However, in spite of how we may be feeling, there is good news for all of us…from those who are feeling worn-out from just meeting the daily challenges of single parenting, to those of us who are dealing with more troubling matters…for all of us who are feeling lost, overwhelmed and in need of a safe place to catch our breath…and this good news is found in today’s reading from Psalm 31 (and echoed in Luther’s hymn): that God is our fortress and our refuge…our safe place, our steadfast source of strength and hope, who is always with us.
We can find our place of safety by reconnecting with God, by taking a quiet moment to find peace, even if we have to lock the bedroom door, take a long walk, a bike ride, taking time to sit in an empty church on a weekday morning, or sharing worship on with others on a Sunday morning. We can also find peace by spending time with someone we care for, sharing conversation, worries, hopes, and our faith together.
And no matter where we are, or what we are doing…we can always retreat to the safety of our fortress of God’s love and grace by taking a moment for prayer, to give our troubles to God’s care, and to ask for support as we are guided through the challenges of being single parents…through all sorts of weather!
Our God is a Mighty Fortress indeed, open to all, to give us comfort, and love, as we are immersed in the protection of God’s grace…and this protection follows us wherever we go, even into our sometimes tumultuous homes where God’s grace and presence can bring the promise of peace, and the hope that things will get better and our homes will once again become our place of safety, togetherness and joy; where life can be well-lived.
Let us Pray:
Our Mighty Fortress God, thank you for being a source of strength, love and comfort for us in times of trouble and in giving us reasons to celebrate in times of joy!! Thank you for immersing us in your grace, please help us to share this grace and hope with others, including our children, by living our faith out loud on a daily basis. Give us hope as you lead us and guide us through the sometimes treacherous shoals of single parenthood, and bring us safely into the safety of your love, in the great fortress of your kingdom.