Psalm 36:7 – “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
There are many passages in scripture about the refuge we find in God – especially in times of strife. In this writing of the psalmist (Psalm 36:7) I find myself asking how I’m called to provide refuge for those in my midst, for in my reading this morning I recognize that the refuge we find in the shadow of God’s wings is not for us alone – rather, it is for all people. How then, can I … and we, the church – the people of God … ensure that all people in our midst – those in our community – are also provided the same refuge that we enjoy?
What does “refuge” mean to us?
Synonyms for refuge are: safety, recourse, sanctuary, and shelter.
Refuge is defined as: something or someone turned to for assistance or security; a shelter from danger or hardship; an act of turning to for assistance.
Refuge, then, can look different among people and their circumstances:
A place of safety –
“The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains quake at the swelling pride.”
“You hide them in the secret place of your presence
from the conspiracies of humans;
you keep them secretly in a shelter
from the strife of evil tongues.”
“For you have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat for the blistering attack from the ruthless is like a rainstorm beating against a wall.” (Isaiah 25:4)
Refuge can be nourishment –
“I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe them!” (Isaiah 58:7)
Refuge can be providing the very basic of necessities of life –
“But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.” (1 Timothy 6:8)
“God will feed the flock like a shepherd, gather the lambs in God’s arms, carry them in God’s bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
And, we, the people of God can be the ones who provide for those in need of refuge. Saint Luke writes about what faith looks like –
“Faith is like grain of mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the wild birds found shelter and roosted and nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:19) … and in my thinking, we can be like a mustard seed, whereby the ways in which we provide refuge grows and grows so that many are able to find refuge as caring for our neighbors expands neighbor to neighbor until all are feed, all have shelter, all have safety, all have refuge underneath the wings of God.
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
As we move through our day today, may we, the people of God, be the ones who provide refuge, in all its various forms, for those we encounter today. In Jesus’ name we pray, and together we say, Amen.
Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins