Reflections on Psalm 93
Just over a year ago, in November 2019, we suffered here at St Alkmund’s from a little bit of flooding in the church and church hall – a result of being in the same place for the last 1000 years, and closer to the river than anything else in the village. When it comes to flooding we are, literally the wrong side of the (railway) tracks.
By the time we came to December last year, although we were still unable to get into our church hall, the church was recovering – with heating on 24/7 to dry the building out it had never been warmer (which put the organ out), and so despite missing a few bits of carpets, after five weeks of meeting in the local church school, we were back in church for Christmas.
We began 2020 looking forward to getting the hall back, and managing various children and youth activities in the church building. We looked forward to getting back to normal by the middle of 2020. We were confident that if Christmas 2019 had been a bit tricky, if we were not able to do the things we normally did, then for Christmas 2020, we’d be back to normal.
A number of times in that period during November and December 2019, we turned as a church to Psalm 93. I have two reflections on it – one from last year, one from this year.
First, watching the waters rise to ultimately flood the church hall, and then the church, despite our best efforts with first sweepers and then pumps really makes the language of Psalm 93 come alive:
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. 4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! Psalm 93:3
Watching flood waters rise is sobering. They rise, and you can’t stop them. There wasn’t much roaring, although the river Derwent was an impressive sight. In the end, we got out of the building and left the flood waters to it. And yet of course the purpose of the imagery in the psalm is to highlight that impressive as flood waters might be, they are nothing compared to God. Waters may thunder and rush in ways beyond the restraint of humankind, even 21st century humankind, but The LORD is greater. I don’t think I’ll read that Psalm in the same way again.
Second, our expectations and hopes for 2020 have not been fulfilled. What we said would happen hasn’t. And yet I have found myself starting to say that 2021 will be better, that once the vaccine is here, and once restrictions end, and once we can sing, and once, and so on. That next Christmas it will all be back to normal. And that may well be true. But it may not. And here again it is helpful to reflect on Psalm 93.
The first verse:
The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Psalm 93:1
It may appear paradoxical to say that the world is established it shall never be moved in a year like the one we have just had. And yet it is true, because as the psalmist reminds us, our unmoving security rests not on our own contingent plans, but on the LORD who reigns. The world is established because God reigns. Who knows what the future holds? If 2020 has taught us anything, it is surely that we don’t and yet we trust in the God who reigns, who knows the future, and who has established the world to achieve his purposes.
We write d.v., Deo volente, God willing. But I suspect most of the time we pay that notion lip service, as we merrily get on with our plans and purposes. Perhaps Psalm 93 might help us to have a little more humility with our plans and certainties, and a little more confidence in God and his, whatever 2021 holds.