Lent is a season of fasting and penitence. It’s a time to re-orient ourselves in a way that causes us to intentionally rely on Christ. It’s a time to give something up, so that in Christ we might take something on. Fasting and penitence is not easy, though. These are difficult things which we purposely take on in order to grow closer to God and neighbor (as fasting usually brings about acts of mercy and piety as well). It is because of all these reasons that I think Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 is a great call to worship on the first Sunday in Lent.
During this season we as an act of faith put ourselves in positions of giving things and habits up while taking on new things and habits for the sake of our spirits. We are, as the Psalmist says, abiding in the shadow of the Almighty saying to God “you are my refuge and my strength; you are my God in whom I trust!” It is during this season that we quit trying to do it all on our own. We recognize that we can’t do it all, so we move into the shadow of the Almighty. We remind ourselves that the best place we can be is near God, relying on God to meet us in our needs and to take care of us. One of the many joys that come with the season of Lent is that we make it out the other side to Easter.
As the psalm says because we have made the Lord our refuge, our dwelling place, and thus no evil will befall us. Our place our dwelling shall be safe and secure because that place is the Lord Godself. Like Jesus in the wilderness, we will be protected. We will be able to come out the other side, to the season of Easter when we feast and celebrate that fact that Christ overcame! esus went to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, and likewise, we go through Lent to put ourselves through the test. We take a leap of faith, we give up something and take something on, knowing that apart from the grace of God we will likely fail. But because of the grace of God, we like Jesus can say no to the tempter and rely on God to be a safe house for us.
I mentioned just above that this psalm is a great call to worship for the first Sunday in the season of Lent. In fact, I almost think it is a better call to worship than a sermon text for this day. It’s fairly difficult to write a commentary on how to preach this text when this text does an excellent job itself as a being an entire sermon, read more at http://www.cleaningallstars.com/. This text is one that calls us to move into the shadow of the Almighty and find our safety and security there during the midst of our struggles and spiritual formation. I believe the best way to preach this text is to take it as it is – to preach the words the psalmist penned. These are words we need to appreciate. These are words that we can take, reflect on, and then begin to ask of the question of “so how do we practically apply this truth to my life.” Where in our lives do we need to move toward the shadow of the Almighty? What have been clinging to, rather than God, that we need to let go of so that we can move further into the refuge and fortress of the Lord God Almighty?
Maybe this Sunday is a good day to take a more experiential route in the sermon. Read the text. Invite your people to ponder, meditate, or reflect on the text. Ask them to write down what is holding them back from moving further into the shadow of the Almighty. Suggest they give that up for Lent. Suggest to them that they recall that God is our refuge and fortress, our strength, the one who will deliver us, the one who will rescue us, the one who will honor us for putting our faith in God, the one who will satisfy us, and the one who will indeed be our salvation. This psalm is a great reminder that we come to worship God because even during the Lenten seasons of our lives, God’s shadow is the best place to be.