My Refuge and Strength - Psalm 46

A worship service plan shaped by Psalm 46. While much of what we observe around us is marked by uncertainty, we find peace in God's protection. This service aims to draw on God's rest and peace for our soul's nurture.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

This service, both in form and in content, is shaped by Psalm 46. We acknowledge that much of what we observe around us is marked by violence, tragedy, and uncertainty. Yet, in the midst of such disorderliness the child of God finds great rest and peace in God's protection. In our worship today we aim to draw on God's rest and peace for our soul's nurture.


We Gather in the Presence of God

Prelude:

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," Helman or Manz [organ], Tucker [handbells], or Wilhelmi [piano]
"Psalm 46: God, Our Help and Constant Refuge," Burkhardt [organ]

The Call to Worship

An Opening Litany (see Liturgy Notes)

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

*Song of Testimony:

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" PH 260, PsH 469, RL 179, TH 92, TWC 43, UMH 110
or "Psalm 46: God, Our Help and Constant Refuge" PH 192, SNC 183
or "God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength" (st. 1, 3, 5) PH 191, PsH 46, RL 102, TH 40

Security in a Fragile World (Psalm 46:1-3)

The Reading of Psalm 46:1-3

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Message

Sung Response: "Be Still and Know" RN 10, SFL 225, TWC 516

Prayer

The Children's Moment

*Song of Faith: "O Lord, You Are My Light" (st. 1-3) PsH 164

Grace Comes in Church (Psalm 46:4-7)

The Reading of Psalm 46:4-7
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Message

Sung Response: "Be Still and Know" RN 10, SFL 225, TWC 516

The Prayer

Songs:

"Like a River Glorious" (st. 1-2) PsH 560, TH 699, TWC 59
"When Peace Like a River" (st. 1-3) PsH 489, TH 691, TWC 519, UMH 377

[During the singing the offering will be received.]

The Offertory Prayer

  Rest in the Knowledge of God (Psalm 46:8-11)

Anthem:

"The Lord Is My Strength," Patterson [SATB anthem]
or "It Is Well with My Soul," Moklebust [handbells]

The Reading of Psalm 46:8-11

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Message

Sung Response: "Be Still and Know" RN 10, SFL 225, TWC 516

The Prayer

*Song: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" (st. 1-3) PsH 170, TWC 78, UMH 117

We Go Out to Serve

*The Reading of Psalm 46-Our Testimony of Confidence

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolation he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*The Passing of the Peace of the Lord

The peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.
[The worshipers pass the peace of the Lord to one another.]

*Song: "Go Now in Peace" (sung twice) PsH 317, RN 293, SFL 79, UMH 665

Postlude: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," Parry or Young [organ] or Albrecht [piano]

* you are invited to stand

Liturgy Notes

  1. When we have done this service, we've found it very helpful to set the tone of the service at the very outset by identifying Psalm 46, our need for rest, and the noise and turbulence around us. The call to worship should create that awareness. The opening litany was a two-part reading of Psalm 46 (by one reader) with jarring headlines interrupting the words of the Psalm (by a second reader). A possible script for this reading follows below. When we originally constructed it, the headlines of the World Trade Center attacks were inserted; you will want to insert current headlines if you choose to use it. If this reading is done, the two voices must be selected carefully, both strong, one voice able to convey the firm confidence of the psalm, the other able to interrupt with jarring news stories. They could both be positioned on separate sides at the front of the sanctuary; or you may wish for the interrupting headlines to be read from the rear or from within the midst of the congregation.
  2. The children's moment will be an excellent time to explain and interpret to children the intent of this service, how their parents are trusting God in times of difficulty, and how they can trust God to care for them when they are afraid too.
  3. Each of the three sections of the service includes a prayer as part of the response to the message. Each of these can be an intercessory prayer and should focus on different concerns as shaped by the message and the adjoining section of the psalm. When taken in its entirety the service will include intercessions for local personal concerns, for the church locally and around the world, and for the citizens of the world.
  4. The closing responsive reading of Psalm 46 is intended to be a corporate affirmation of faith as a response to receiving God's promises from his Word. Therefore the worshipers stand for this reading. It should be done with vigor and confidence, is followed immediately by the words of blessing in the benediction, and the circle is completed when worshipers pass the peace to one another before their leave.

An Opening Litany on Psalm 46 for Today

(Note: the second reader regularly interrupts the first reader with the headlines . . .)

Reader One: God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble . . .

Reader Two: Suicide Bomber attacks, two killed, ten injured in town square.

One: Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Two: Terrorists strike again! Embassy bombed.

One: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall. God will help her at break of day . . .

Two: Africa hard hit by AIDS; infections booming in Asia and Eastern Europe.

One: Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall . . .

Two: Last Filipinos leave Iraq; kidnapped soldier soon to be released.

One: He lifts his voice, the earth melts . . .

Two: Kidnappings rock Palestinian government; emergency session called.

One: The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Two: Financial dirt discovered on big businesses; lawsuits pending.

One: Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.

Two: Martha Stewart gets five months.

One: Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Two: Thousands are dying in Sudan; is it genocide?

Both: THE LORD ALMIGHTY IS WITH US; THE GOD OF JACOB IS OUR FORTRESS.

Sermon Notes

  1. This psalm easily divides itself into three parts. Verses 1-3 set the stark contrast between the reality of turbulence in our world and the secure refuge that we find in God our strength. Verses 4-7 speak of the river of God coming from the city of God. And verses 8-11 invite us to observe the sovereignty of God and to rest in his care. Twice the confident refrain is found: "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (vv. 7, 11). This neat division of the psalm into three parts has also formed the structure of this worship service, and consequently the message will be similarly divided.
  2. In the first message it will be helpful to make some general comments about the psalm: its theme, the fact that its author and circumstances cannot be definitively identified, and that it probably was a psalm originally intended to be sung. The prominence of the word "refuge" in this psalm, and in the entire Psalter, should be noted. Then this part of the message should vividly portray the contrast-in the psalmist's world and in our world-between the disorderliness of a fallen society and the security of finding refuge in God our strength.
  3. In the second message the idea of the "river" needs to be explored and explained. In ancient society a river was a precious resource for a city. Here the river represents the goodness and grace of God flowing from the city of God and becomes the source of life and hope for people in distress. Therefore they break into the faith-filled refrain "The Lord Almighty is with us . . ."
  4. The third message includes a call that we come to rest in the knowledge of God. A knowledge of God and his saving actions provides the foundation of our confidence. A good memory (of God's actions) gives strength to our faith. Now it is necessary to move to the New Testament and add the story of God's actions in Jesus Christ and his suffering, death, and resurrection to bring victory and hope into our world. Then verse 10 calls us to be still and reflect on that!

Music Notes

1. The prelude music suggestions based on the following tunes can be found in these sources:

  • EIN FESTE BURG ["A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"]
    — "Five for Organ," an organ collection by Michael Helman published by Augsburg Fortress
    ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
    — "God of Grace," an organ collection by Paul Manz published by Morningstar MSM-10-599
    [2004] (M)
    — "Variations on 'A Mighty Fortress' " by Margaret Tucker for 3-5 octaves handbell choir,
    published by Morningstar MSM-30-800 [1987] (M-D)
    — "Hymns . . . Light Jazz Style," a piano collection by Teresa Wilhelmi published by Word 301
    0136 315 [1997] (E-M)
  • MICHAEL ["Psalm 46: God, Our Help and Constant Refuge"]
    — "All My Hope on God Is Founded," an organ transcription by Michael Burkhardt published
    by Morningstar MSM-10-734 [2001] (E-M)

2. Alternative accompaniments for EIN FESTE BURG can be found in John Ferguson's "Hymn Harmonizations for Organ," book 2, published by Ludwig O-07 [1983] and Dale Wood's "New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes" published by Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]. An alternative harmonization for MICHAEL can be found in Michael Burkhardt's "As Though the Whole Creation Cried," published by Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001].

3. The SATB anthem "The Lord Is My Strength" by Mark Patterson is published by Choristers Guild CGA876 [2000] (E-M). It is based on Habakkuk 3:17-19. The alternate anthem suggestion, "It Is Well with My Soul" by Cathy Moklebust, is written for 3-5 octaves handbells with optional handchimes and C instrument. When used at this point in the service, it serves as a time for the congregation to reflect on the text they have just sung.

4. An alternative accompaniment for ST. ANNE ["O God, Our Help in Ages Past"] can be found in John Ferguson's "Hymn Harmonizations for Organ," book 1, published by Ludwig O-05 [1975].

5. The postlude suggestion on the tune ST. ANNE can be found in the following sources:

  • "Seven Chorale Preludes," an organ collection by Hubert Parry published by Novello 13684 [1940] (M).
  • "Eight Voluntaries," an organ collection by Gordon Young published by Presser 413-41034-30 [1961] (E-M).
  • "Timeless Hymns of Faith," a piano collection by Mark Albrecht published by Augsburg 11-10863 [1998] (E-M).

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations

  • PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
  • RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
  • SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
  • Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
  • Commission Publications)
  • TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
  • UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
  • WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

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