My God in Whom I Trust

Sunday, November 3, 2019
Pastor Megan Torgerson

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 

Together you made a powerful confession of faith in the words of this psalm: “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  God is the one who protects you, God is the one who defends you, God is the only one worthy of your trust.  Not just any power or claim over your life: this one God.  The God who is so personal to you that you can truly claim God possessively: my God.  The God you know, the God who knows you.

And then you kept reading the psalm and heard that this same God will deliver you from deadly pestilence, that there will be no need to fear terror or destruction by day or by night, that God will deliver any who call on God, that God will rescue and honor us in any time of trouble, and that God will defend us into a long, safe, healthy life.

And then you remember that we just read a list of names.  We heard the names of these twenty loved ones who have died and you may wonder – what about them?  Where was God in their time of trouble? Why didn’t God deliver him from deadly pestilence?  Why didn’t God cover her with protection?  If indeed God will satisfy us with long life and show us salvation, what is the promise for these loved ones who are dead?

And then you consider the other list of names we read, the list of those baptized in this church over the past year.  You remember that we read from Romans 6: “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death”.  These beautiful loved ones, so many of them babies, we do not promise them freedom from pain but rather assure them of their eventual death.

What are we even doing, here?  How do we reconcile a God who promises to rescue us and honor us with the constant presence of death and every single reason to believe that there is no way to keep even these most vulnerable among us safe?  Where is God your refuge and fortress when death comes for us all?

Death is clever, my friends.  Death knows how to win your trust.  Death is real and Death is everywhere and Death won’t let you forget it.  Death has power over us even here, especially here on this day when we remember all the saints who have died.  Death only has to point to the truth to send us reeling, and the truth is that you can’t escape death.

For that matter, you can’t escape all the little deaths, all the accidents and diseases and chronic illnesses and all the other kinds of pain and brokenness and suffering and loss that serve only to remind us that Death will not go away.  Death won’t leave us alone.  Death wants us to give in to the chaos that cannot be avoided. Death wants us afraid, because that’s how Death knows it wins.

It is no wonder to me that in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Devil used Psalm 91 to try to tempt and taunt Jesus.  The Devil – who is so good at quoting scripture – uses other verses from this psalm, ones we didn’t read today.  The Devil quotes them to Jesus: “God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up”.  Put God to the test! the Devil suggests, all the while knowing that when we make the tests and we make the rules we will be the ones who suffer.

And this psalm, with its promises of God’s unfailing protection and defense, are easy to set up for failure. It is easily misused as a test, a checklist, to see if God really loves you or is really in charge.  Has there been suffering or pain or loss in your life?  Well then, how could God possibly be your refuge and strength?  When we play the game of testing God, the Devil knows that death and despair will inevitably win.  And if we trust Death, there is no room in our hearts to trust God.

For we who live in this life still chased by death, the call is not to test God.  The call is to trust God. We test God when we say that sickness and pain and injury and trouble and suffering and death only happen because we did something wrong or don’t believe hard enough. God doesn’t fail that test – you fail that test.  Trusting God does not result in an absence of trials and suffering.  Trusting God means knowing and resting in the truth that God has promised to be with us in trouble, to rescue us and honor us no matter what we endure.

Trusting God means truly hearing the promises of baptism.  It means believing, as we heard this morning, that “if we have been united with [Christ] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  It means knowing that even in the presence of death we live not in fear but in God.

The first verse of Psalm 91 addresses us as those who “abide in the shadow of the almighty” – do you know how close you have to be to something to be in its shadow?  You have to be literally right next to it, pressed against it, wrapped up with it.  We who abide God’s very shadow must cling so tightly to our God and the promises God made to us in baptism that we simply have no room for Death to squeeze its way in.  We trust that in our baptism we belong not to Death, but to God.

There’s nothing to test, nothing to question – just the confidence in the constant presence of our almighty God who so hated Death that the Son himself came to destroy it.  Death may take us but it will not keep us. In life, in death, in life beyond death, we belong to God, our refuge and fortress, the only thing we trust.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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