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No recording for this sermon, we apologize for the inconvenience.

Good morning, church. And even though we tend to celebrate the church calendar a little more heartily here in our church more than the national calendar, I do want to rejoice with all the moms who are rejoicing today, or at least give props to all the moms who are cleverly leveraging the holiday to get a good lunch downtown today. I respect that game. I can’t tell you how amazed I am at the way my wife cares for and disciples our kids. The relationship is so crucial in all of our lives, it’s well worth celebrating those who spend countless hours day and night caring for little ones. That is beautiful and holy work.

Please go with me to Psalm 93…

Psalms is a book of prayers, spiritual songs. It’s music, poetry, and like all good music, we should expect beauty, imagery, and honesty. Beauty is something we can’t live without, and it’s something that can’t be manufactured. Beauty has to be crafted, it has to be grown. In some ways, too, beauty has to be given as a gift.

To use and understand the psalms well, you have to understand what they are. The psalms are filled with imagery and metaphor, so you will make mistakes taking everything literally. A lot of the Bible is God speaking to humanity, but the psalms are humanity speaking back to God. Just like you’re going to misunderstand a foreign language without study and practice, you’re going to misunderstand what poetry is saying if you don’t put in work to speak this language.

Many of our spiritual ancestors would have considered the soul to be in three parts: thought, beauty, and gut feeling. It was believed beauty bound rational thought and gut feeling together, that without beauty in your life you would end up either as cold, emotionless rationality, able to justify anything because nothing was sacred—either that or you would end up as an impulsive creature chasing after anything you want regardless of the consequences. In our culture today we have a lot of thoughts, usually stated loudly or often without much concern for the listener, and we have a lot of people acting out of gut emotion, but we’re lacking beauty to bring the two together.

I want us to use the psalms as Jesus used them. This was his prayerbook, his hymnal. Mysteriously, when we pray the psalms we pray them in the Spirit alongside our God. There’s power in that, just like there’s power in singing your heart out to the Lord, even though the words are something someone else wrote, that multitudes of people have already sung. Prayer doesn’t need to be spontaneous or original to be meaningful. We have the Lord’s prayer, and the book of common prayer, and hymnals many of us have sung since childhood. Jesus, and centuries of worshippers before and after him, had the psalms.

Go with me this morning, psalm 93. If you will, please stand as we read the word of the Lord together. [] This is the word of the Lord; thanks be to God. Pray with me.

This psalm, like psalm 98 last week, is a royal psalm, meaning it celebrates the kingship of God. Last week, the psalm shifted from celebrating the king of Jerusalem to celebrating the Lord. This one skips any mention of the earthly ruler, and it’s all about God. I like to think this psalm was written by someone who just really didn’t like whoever was king at the time. This is the prayer you can pray if you voted for the guy who lost. What are my thoughts on the election, you ask? I’m leaning into God being the true and rightful ruler of the universe. I’m going to preach this sermon again on November 10 this year for the half of the church that comes in sad.

No, that’s not real, but the comfort in this is real. We’ve all experienced how much effect a ruler or a party can have on a nation, and it’s easy to place hope in what a politician or a party will be able to do in our lives, but ultimately that hope is misplaced. It’s easy to look in awe at the powers rulers have over militaries, over departments, over the populace, but ultimately that awe is misplaced. In truth, our God wears strength like a belt, and his throne has been unmoved since the foundations of the earth were laid. Every nation, every ruler, will pass away, but the Lord’s majesty lasts into eternity.

Two things are sure in this psalm: One, God is reigning on high, and two: floods come. Floods come. In New Orleans the floods are both spiritual and literal. I know I said not to take poetry literally, but this one you can. Don’t park your car in a low part of the road this time of year. Floods come.

Water in ancient Israel represented chaos, death, and everything unknown. Many Biblical authors speak of death as an abyss. For example, Peter challenges his readers by saying “who can go into the abyss (that is to bring Christ up)?” The idea of the abyss is paired in ancient mythology with the oceans’ depths. Think about how, at the time (even today!), so little was known about the deeps of the oceans. There were no submarines, no high-pressure cameras and lenses. In that day, they knew the ocean deeps were near to limitless, cold, lightless, and wet. They knew whatever went into them never came out again, and they knew enormous creatures and waves would sometimes come up from the deeps to swallow people, even entire ships, and bring them down. They knew from time to time floods would come and the deeps would overwhelm the earth.

So by the time we get to ancient Greece and Rome, you’re hearing stories of the souls of the dead swimming in infinite rivers in darkness, and stories of great heroes like Hercules going into the deeps on purpose to bring back someone who had been lost to them. Like space in today’s world, the deeps were where all of the ancients projected all of their fear and excitement about the unknown, all of their anxieties about the unexpected in life.

So when the author of this psalm talks about floods rising up from the deep, roaring, remember those moments in your life when something completely unforeseen rose up out of the unknowable future and threw your life into chaos. For me, I remembered the ultrasound last year where we got to see our baby girl, and as the tech is packing up her equipment she asked us to stay because the neonatal doctor wanted to speak with us. Normally you don’t see a doctor, and we both knew that, so we just sat in the room nervously holding hands for a fifteen-minute eternity waiting to see what this would be, if our ship would sink, if we would go down with it. You look in awe at the life forming and you celebrate, but floods come.

In all of our lives, floods come. The new real future replaces the imaginary. Some enormous thing comes out of the abyss of everything unknown about the future and takes you down with it into cold, dark places where only heroes can go and return. The rest of us are lost.

Floods come. I don’t know what it has been or will be for you. I know some of your stories, but no one lives an entire life here on this earth without some kind of flood, some kind of pain, some kind of loss which feels like the ship has been swallowed from under you and what was a voyage is now treading water and not knowing if something else will come at you or from what direction, and do you start swimming, or wait for a rescuer, or both?

Floods come, but God is stronger than the flood. God is pictured in the psalm as being seated in a high place on the earth. As the flood waters rise, God is like high ground, and it says, he will not be moved. His throne is as ancient as the earth. It has never been moved. This isn’t movement in the physical sense. The image is not God sitting in a safe place while we’re all out here drowning—opposite. Whenever God defines himself against the other gods of the world, he always says, I’m the God who is with you through it all. The unmoved image is of a king who has never been dethroned, an empire which has never been conquered through all the ages of the earth. The king has never seen death, and the land of his dominion has never been lessened. He never has been, never will be moved from his throne over the earth. Our God reigns.

I love the line of, “you are from everlasting,” because it lends the same depth as the abyss image, but in the opposite direction. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” Deeper, more mysterious than the depths is our God who is from everlasting. It’s more likely that the mountains would be thrown into the depths of the sea than for our God to be dethroned from his dominion over his creation. If the flood has come for you, and you are looking for dry ground, it’s in the Lord. I don’t care how overwhelmed you are, or how high the water has risen, there is rescue and rest in him.

This little poem, five lines, asks us to believe something profound: even though death and the abyss are unfathomably large, dark, and cold, our God is larger and he is goodness, warmth, and light. And if you are to put the two on a balance to see which one matters more, which one is weightier, which one we ought to concern ourselves with, the scales will tip toward the weight of God’s glory. In death we enter an unfathomable depth from which we can’t escape, but in God we have a hero who will descend into death itself to bring us up, because of his great love for us. All the stories of heroes of old are true about our God and true about our lives today.

If you are overwhelmed and need a rescuer today, there is a God who left heaven to come into humanity, not to condemn humanity but to save it. He went into death itself in order to bring us up. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea is our God.

There are some words and ideas in life which lose meaning through overuse. They just sort of run dry. I try to avoid them the plague. That was a joke, Alana, but if I have to explain the joke to you it won’t be funny anymore. But for instance, when someone says the word whistleblower, we don’t even think of whistles anymore, or the firemen and police who used them to warn people something was wrong in the city and they should wake up, pay attention. And as I was writing this week and saved this document, I wondered how many people these days have ever even seen a floppy disk, much less used one to save a file. But almost everyone would recognize the clipart version of one as the save symbol on our computers. Philosophers call images like that “unsuccessful metaphors,” because they have lost their imagery, their meaning with constant use.

There a danger of God’s strength becoming this way for those of us who have attended church for a while. There are a lot of passages in the Bible about God’s strength, and in theology class we talk about his omnipotence. Even as a child I learned a song about how God was so big, so strong, and so mighty that there is nothing our God cannot do. After a while you stop actually thinking about God’s strength, you certainly stop being amazed by it. If you’re not careful, you can actually stop believing in it.

AJ, my very soon-to-be 9-year-old and I were wrestling the other day and kind of fake fighting. In the middle of it he started using all of his strength squeezing me and hitting me, and I kind of laughingly told him to stop or he was going to hurt me, so he paused and asked me, “What would happen if you used all of your strength?” I thought about it and decided to give him a straight answer, so I told him, “If I were to use all of my strength it would kill you,” and he asked, “Would you ever do that?” He asks me stuff like that all the time, not because he’s afraid of me, but because I always answer something like, “No, I love you, I would never hurt you.” And he asked if I would hurt someone who came into our home to hurt him and I told him I would. You have these weird conversations with kids. They’re trying to figure the world out. They ask all kinds of questions.

My point is, it’s good for AJ to know my strength and my character together. Because the world around him is dangerous, he has to know I’m dangerous too, but that I’m on his side. If he forgets either fact, or if I turn against him, too, the world would be a terrible place for him. He needs to know when he’s in some sort of crisis, to come to me and I will help him work it out. No matter what the threat against him, no matter how desperate the fight seems, I want him to be confident about tapping me in.

We have to remember that God is strong, mightier than the waters, exactly because floods come, and because they are dangerous. We have to remember our God is dangerous, too. He’s “swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms.” He’s stopped the sun in the sky and caused the deeps to cover entire armies. He’s strong. Don’t let that get lost in your heart and mind. When trouble comes, whatever the threat is, no matter how desperate the fight seems, tap him in. When you’re tempted with despair you need to remember how strong God is.

Floods come, but God is stronger than the flood, and he is our refuge. God is our refuge. You can depend on him. When you feel unsteady enough that your world is about to wash away, you can go to him. This looks like prayer. Like, “Father God, I don’t know what to do, or how this will end, and I need your help.” I need to learn how to pray. I need prayer to be my go-to, not my last resort. There are so many times, when people tell me what they’re facing in life—friends facing loss. Friends whose parents were arrested. Friends going through divorce. I have no idea what to do for them. So often, there’s nothing I can do for them, but I can always pray for them. Prayer brings me from a place of helplessness to a place of hopefulness as I watch God respond.

A refuge, a strong tower is only useful if you run to it. In ancient times, not everyone would have lived inside of the city walls. They lived on farms and in villages near the water all through the region. But as enemies approached, everyone in the region would pack food and flee to the city of refuge. In anxious times, they would fill the city and close the gates. Sharing food, sharing tables. If you stayed outside of the refuge you would be an easy target.

So why do we isolate whenever we face trouble? Whenever we’re grieving, why do we grieve alone? Why not invite our communities into our fears, into our prayers, into our lives? If you don’t run to the refuge you’ll be swept away.

Start with one thing. One thing you’re bearing alone. A grief, a fear. Find someone trustworthy and ask them to pray with you. Share it with the community and see what God does. We’re not meant to live our lives in isolation, we’re meant to be together. We need each other. And we’re not meant to try to face difficulty on our own, we’re meant to flee to God our refuge.

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