Sunday, January 27, 2013

Abiding In the Shadow of the Almighty

Abide is a beautiful word, began Pastor Scott who gave his sermon on Psalm 91 (verses 1-2, 14-16) today. Much though I love words, the word "abide" had never struck me as particularly beautiful. Consider the word's etymology. Abiding comes from the Old English ābīdan 'wait', from ā- 'onwards' + bīdan (a word of Germanic origin, which gave us the Old English "bide" meaning remain somewhere; bide is generally used nowadays, if at all, to mean wait quietly for a good opportunity to do something). It is something I've been doing all my life, I thought. I'm always trying to bide but where is the action, excitement, and passion in abiding, I wondered. It seems to lack courage, I am tired of abiding! I've been abiding my whole life, waiting on God, waiting for Him to act, waiting forever, it seems to me. Then, there flashed before my mind all the times when I, tired of abiding had indeed acted, sometimes impetuously, other times strategically, and made a mess, before I started to abide in God again! How blessed I am, I thought feeling like a changeling, that I don't have that awful sense of striving any more. Abiding in the shadow of the Almighty is perfect harmony. 

Abide with me was one of my maternal grandmother's favorite hymns. My memories of her leading us in singing this as a closing hymn for our evening family devotions is still vivid, even though it was ~40 years ago. I never liked the song as a child mostly because of its ponderous tune; we sang it to the slow tune of Eventide (here's the same version performed by Eden's Bridge). As I've grown older though I learned to appreciate the sentiment expressed in this classic hymn; it is a prayer asking God to stay close as life is fading, and at the time of death. A few years ago, I began to wonder why I never heard it in church and so we sang it at one of our women's A Day With Jesus retreats (where the theme was John 15:4, Jesus said, Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. In John 15:7 Jesus makes a promise to his disciples: If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.).

I brought my attention back to the sermon (not that it had really wandered and I can't resist an aside here, but I think this is how the best preachers really touch hearts and minds, by drawing aside the veil and bringing the individual deeply hidden subconscious "soul" to life) and found that Pr. Scott was indeed addressing our collective soul and nurturing our growth as the body of Christ. There's so many changes going on in our church right now that some are unsettled; we also have our own individual challenges. Psalm 91:1-2 is about abiding in God, not in a pastor, staff, circumstance, or location. Like the Psalmist, God is our shelter, refuge, and a hiding place. In verse 14, the voice changes and God speaks directly. God personally assures each one of us that he will be with us, deliver us from trouble, satisfy us with long life, and show us his salvation (Psalm 91: 14-16). Pr. Scott's sermons are available here and this one is titled Our Refuge.

It has long been my understanding that for Scott to do what God brought him to do in Irvine, people (staff and congregation) would have to leave. Such changes are very sad but they are not signs that God is no longer with us (or them). Scott is a very different kind of pastor than any I've seen at Irvine Pres. and God's vision for our church to be enacted or enframed,* borrowing a concept from one of my favorite philosophers Heidegger,  through his leadership is also going to be different, challenging, and excitingly transformational. My own part has been clear to me as well and I have shared it with all who've questioned me, troubled about the changes. IPC is one of God's most valuable gifts to me. IPC is where the Holy Spirit, not I or any other human agency, led me to become a member of the Body of Christ. It is my free will choice to continue to abide in God and trust him by worshiping  him and enjoying my family in Christ at Irvine Pres. Church.

*According to Heidegger, enframing is the essence of modern technology. In other words, technology, which is not neutral, forces disclosure (revelation) in ways that cannot be predicted or controlled. Heidegger uses the German word gestell, meaning bookrack/stand. Source: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays by Heidegger. Thanks to my husband for bringing Heidegger back into my life. He's always pushing me to excellence :). This time, he challenged me to summarize Habermas and Heidegger in one sentence each. Habermas will be coming up shortly.

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