Are you seated?
If not, find a chair and sit down for this post.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD ,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I’m so thankful for God.
I’m so thankful for all He does to provide and protect us.
Let these truths speak into your searching, frightened, and weary soul:
“God is our refuge and strength . . . The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge . . . Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, though the mountains move in the midst of the sea.”
God is secure.
God is strong.
God is here…with us.
God is here, and ever-presently here, when we face trials and troubles.
How do you respond when debris from this fallen world falls on you?
I want to respond like Mstislav Rostropovich.
Mstislav Rostropovich, who died in 2007, was universally recognized as the world’s greatest living cellist. During the height of the Cold War, Rostropovich and his wife spoke out on behalf of human rights and artistic freedoms in the face of oppression at the hands of Soviet Union.
This enraged the Communist government and Rostropovich and his wife were punished severely.
Their concerts were canceled.
Their foreign tours were canceled.
Their recording projects were canceled.
The state-run media imposed a black-out of their names and activities.
Finally, they were given visas to perform in Paris, but then their Communist government refused to let them back in. They could never come home to Russia again.
They were without a home.
Everything they owned and loved was left behind. They lived in exile until 1989. Until November 9th, 1989, to be exact. The date the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
The Berlin Wall was a 96 mile long concrete barrier that surrounded the democratic enclave of West Berlin between August 13th, 1961 and November 9, 1989. It was built to stop East Germans fleeing Communist rule that had been set up under Soviet control following World War II, it quickly became the most potent symbol of the Cold War. As many as 265 people died trying to cross it.
When Rostropovich heard the Berlin Wall was coming down, and the communist regime in East Germany was coming apart, his heart was full of gratitude. He knew that his exile from his native homeland would soon be over.
He was finally going home.
So what did he do?
How did he say “thanks”?
He flew to Berlin as quickly as he could. With his cello in hand, he caught a cab, and asked to be driven to the wall.
Upon arriving at the wall he realized that he could not play his cello because he’d forgotten something he never had to remember before: he’d forgotten a chair. You can’t play a cello without a chair. The chair was always ready for him. Never before in his life did he have to worry about the chair.
But now he had to find a chair.
He began knocking on doors of homes close to where he was let off. One German family produced a small kitchen chair. So to offer his joy and gratitude to God for the gift of freedom and homecoming, he sat down in his chair in front of the crumbling wall and played his cello unaccompanied.
So, what did the greatest cellist in the world play on his cello when he picked up his bow?
Something he had never recorded before. He played a Bach cello suite.
“I chose Bach to say thank you to the great God,” Rostropovich explains.
Rostropovich knew what it meant to have the earth shake, and the mountains move, and the sea roar, and the nations tumble. But he also knew in the midst of it all, “God is with us. And the God of Jacob is our refuge.”1
This has not been an easy year. We had an outbreak of the Zika virus. Terrorist attacks around the world. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed at the Brazil Olympics. The nation has been in an election year tumult and has emerged bitterly divided. We’ve faced some things this past year none of us could have predicted or anticipated.
Yet this Thanksgiving we will gather to thank God, to celebrate that God is our refuge and strength, that no virus, terrorist threat, Brexit, delusional swimmer, or Trump presidential victory can separate us from the love of God and the communion of saints.Now this is what I am going to ask you to do sometime this week, on Thanksgiving, or sometime soon: I want you to be Rostropovich.
Find a chair.
Place it in a quiet spot.
And say “thank you” to God for the walls that have crumbled in your life this past year. I’m not asking you to play anything (unless you can), though if you’d like to sing a song, or recite a verse of Scripture or quote a poem, that’d be great!
You can do this by yourself or set up a chair on Thanksgiving and give your friends and family the opportunity to take their turn with you in the seat of gratitude.
As you sit, reflect on Psalm 46 and how the truths of this psalm have come alive in your life this past year.
If you were Rostropovich, what words of thanks, what words of Scripture, would you speak out of our deep gratitude for the God who IS our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in time of trouble? Please share them in the comments section below so we may all give thanks together.
1 This portion of the story comes from a personal conversation between Rostropovich and John M. Buchanan, as recounted in the message”Glory,” at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 2000.
©2016 Arron Chambers