The Heat of Healing

Psalm 46

[Watch the sermon here.]

God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts.


How does the earth melt?

Does the earth melt like a swooning lover?
Oh! That melts my heart!

Does it melt like metal in fire?
Like that which is hard becoming liquid?

Is it the ice of the earth that is melting?
The glaciers?

The voice of our Beloved God speaks,
and the earth melts.

The intensity of God heats the earth.
That truth makes me think of Moses
who had to turn away when God passed him by.
Moses’ experience of God was so intense
that it left his face aglow,
so much so that he had to wear a veil.

When we enter into that heat, we, too, melt.
When the fire of God blazes on the metal structures of our lives,
we discover that which we thought was immovable
becomes soft and pliable.

The heat of saunas releases toxins from our bodies.
Likewise, the heat of divine love releases toxins from our world.
It dissolves our toxic instincts.

God dissolves the death instinct within us.
God disintegrates our instinct to use aggression and violence
as the only sure means to achieve our own group’s security.

God hinders violence. God hinders warmongering.
God brings it to naught.
Psalm 46 says very clearly, God brings war to an end.
This is not because God is out doing battle
and has conquered everyone.

Rather, God models a different way of operating.
Breaking the bow. Snapping the spear. Burning the shield.

God disarms us.

Our Beloved’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts.

The earth changes,
the Psalmist tells us.

The seas roar and foam;
the mountains shake.

What lasts amidst this chaos?

Not violence.
Not war.
Not aggression.

What endures time?

The way of humility.

Be still and know I am God,
our Beloved advises us.

I have often understood that line to mean
be quiet, maybe meditate a little,
and then you can connect with God.

Yet, this week, as I studied the Hebrew translation,
I discovered its true meaning.

Release your grip on your people, places, and things,
it is telling us, and trust in God alone.
Go past the ego and know God deeply.
Be deeply known.

Yes, be still and know.

For the Hebrew word for “still” is rapha.
Rapha means “to let yourself sink,
to let go of your rigidity, to allow yourself to be weak,
to throw off all pretenses of strength and become feeble.”

Become vulnerable.
Become real.

Rapha is more than stillness.
It is surrender.

Be still and know that I am God.
The Hebrew word for “know” here is yada.
Yada means to have intimate knowledge of someone .

Be still and know I am God.

God beckons us to position ourselves vulnerably and honestly,
as we tell the truth about our growth areas,
and allow ourselves to receive help.
In the process, we discover an intimate and satisfying relationship
with God.

Be still and know.
That you are loved.

We find shelter in the arms of our God.
As we do, we discover the humble way.
All else may totter and fall,
but the humble lifestyle remains anchored in truth.

From where does our healing come?

It does not come from the Department of Defense.
It does not come from our bank account.
It does not come from a brute display of power.

Healing comes from the humble way of Jesus.

Jesus entered the world in a dingy animal barn.
Taking on the life of a homeless person,
Jesus went place to place, without a house,
and counted on others to supply his needs.

Jesus responded humbly when he encountered difference,
reaching across the sexism and ethnocentrism of the day
to learn what it was like to live as another.
Take the example of the woman at the well,
where Jesus sat down and chatted with her,
though the rest of the town had cast her out
because of their sexist ideas.
Another time, as in the case of the Canaanite woman,
when Jesus did make an assumption,
he was willing to change his mind,
to remain open to the people around him.

At the end, Jesus didn’t call on others to crucify his enemies.
Instead, Jesus said, Take up your own cross and follow me.
In other words, assume responsibility for your own inner work,
take responsibility for your woundedness, ask for help, be changed.
So that you do not unconsciously hurt others.

Jesus shows us how to place the way of solidarity,
empathy, humility, and accountability at the center of life.

Be still and know that I am God,
our Beloved coos.

There is something about
the healing process that includes a release,
a loosening of what has been held tight.

That release can come to us in simple ways,
as we breathe intentionally, take a walk, or even cry.
Crying, too, is a healing release.

It strikes me that when Moses asked God for God’s name,
God simply replied, I am who I am.
That name in Hebrew is Yahweh.

However, in Biblical Hebrew, vowels are not written,
so God’s name is written just as Y H W H.

The name Yahweh is in our Psalm today.

Since Jewish people do not speak the name of God,
Yahweh is translated as LORD with all capital letters.

Today, our psalmists writes the name of God twice: Y H W H.
As Mary Ann Blank reminds us,
scholars and rabbis teach that
this is the sound of human breath.

Try just making those noises, y and h, then w and h.

(In) YH
(Out) WH

This sound gives us a key.

How do we find release?

We can start with something as simple as breathing.

(In) YH
(Out) WH

A humble way is a simple way
for God is already with us.

The earth melts!
What does not matter melts away.
Until only truth remains.

The floor is lava.
The earth is lava!
It is not hard any more.
It is soft and hot, moving and magma, fluid and changing.
We thought the earth was solid.
We thought the earth would never shake.
We did not know it could move.

Suddenly, there is movement
where we did not think there would be a movement.

That is true inside of us!
Just like the core of the earth is molten magma,
our insides, too, have fire and heat.

Sometimes, I think of the earth as solid,
and I forget that at its heart is hot liquid, melted and burning.
Everything inside the earth has been melted,
just as the Psalmist described.
We center ourselves, via gravity,
around a melted earth. A soft earth.
It is just like the humble lifestyle,
which is warm and malleable at the heart of life.

This is our refuge: the hot core of God’s love.

This hot core is accessible to all of us.

It warms us beautifully,
and it also changes us.
It softens us so we can release
what we hold tight.

Seas foam and roam;
mountains shake;
sometimes, our life itself crumbles.

Yet, there is always sanctuary
in the arms of God.

This place of love endures.
This place where we can peel off all the layers
and show God at last our real and trembling soul.
This place where we can be still and known.
This place where we have intimacy with God.

In this sense of love,
the earth melts.

Our defenses, at last,
are disarmed.

Here, God is our refuge.
God is our joyful pinnacle, at the last.

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