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Peace in the Storm- Midweek Musing 3/13/2024

I recently came across an old story or perhaps it is better called a fable about an art competition. This old story talks about a large art gallery that ran a competition for painters, offering a prize for the best painting on the subject of peace. 

The prize winner was a shock to all those who observed it. The painting showed the ocean in a violent storm, with lightning in the sky and waves crashing into cliffs by the shore. It was dark and turbulent. Waters and wind were moving around violently. It seemed anything but peaceful. Thus, many viewing it wondered where the peace was in this artwork. You had to look carefully. Halfway up the cliff was a bird’s nest tucked into a hollow in the rock, and there a mother bird was sitting on the nest with her little babies safely underneath her. That was where peace was found. Peace was not the absence of a storm, but safety in the middle of the storm.

In this world which often feels like a turbulent stormy sea, where the waves of uncertainty, fear, and despair threaten to engulf us, the notion of peace can seem distant, or even unattainable. 

Yet, amidst the chaos and the tumult, there exists a profound truth captured in the words of the 23rd Psalm, which is a part of scripture I have never officiated a funeral without sharing. In these beautiful words the Psalmist points to the light of hope found in a God who provides, simply through the Creator’s presence, a place of respite, a safe haven…or we might call it a spiritual nest. This gift of grace is provided simply because of the great love of our Creator.

As I considered these two readings which I literally read within minutes of each other, this idea of divine peace and rest and refuge found in both writings created in my mind a vivid image of peace—not as the absence of conflict but as the assurance of safety even during the hard times of our lives.

The 23rd Psalm is a powerful testament to God's role as our shepherd, a role that encompasses both guidance and protection. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want," the Psalm begins, immediately establishing a relationship of our dependence and trust. It is a reminder that with God, we lack nothing. Our heavenly parent leads us "beside still waters" and restores our soul, guiding us along "paths of righteousness." 

Each of these verses from this Psalm creates an image of lush, calm, peaceful landscapes which stand in stark contrast to the stormy seas we often encounter in our life. Yet, the truth is the tranquility we discover is not in the absence of turmoil but in the presence of God. Even "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," the Psalmist proclaims, "I will fear no evil, for you are with me." In these words, we discover the essence of peace, which is the calm assurance that comes from knowing we are never alone in our struggles.

The story of the art competition is a modern-day analogy of this truth. Even in the violent storm with its frightening waters and terrifying winds, peace is symbolized by a simple bird's nest tucked safely in the cliffside. The mother bird, serene and untroubled, shelters her offspring from the storm raging around them. This symbolic image is as a powerful reminder of God's love for us that follows us all of our life. 

Like the mother bird who provides a safe haven for her young, God offers us refuge in the midst of life's tempests. The peace depicted in the painting is not a denial of the storm's power but a testament to the strength of the One who provides for us even as it rages around us.

This juxtaposition of the 23rd Psalm and this simple fable invites us to reconsider our understanding of peace. True peace, as these narratives reveal, is not the elimination of conflict or hardship from our lives. Rather, it is the presence of a steadfast protector and companion who walks with us through these very challenges. God, our shepherd, does not promise a life devoid of storms. Instead, our Lord promises to be our safe nest within them, a source of comfort that enables us to face our fears and uncertainties with courage.

In the torrent of life's storms, the quiet confidence of the psalmist and the serene assurance of the mother bird in the fable remind us to find our hope and peace in our Creator. They remind us that, while we cannot control the storms that life brings our way, we can choose where we seek shelter. In God, we find a safe haven that no storm can breach, a nest of peace perched securely in the midst of life's turbulence. This is the true peace we find with God: not a life without storms, but life with our loving God who is our very sanctuary during them.

May we live our lives in the light of such good news.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Alleluia Amen.


Blessings,


Clay


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