I want to tell you a story this afternoon about my friend I’ll call Ralph. One night I got a

call he was in the emergency room. His heart was failing and he couldn’t breathe. Once I made it

to his bed, I could see his face. He was pale, white as the sheets on his bed, and his eyes were

wide behind the mask that was loudly forcing air into his lungs. I saw something I’d never seen

in him before—panic. I felt afraid, watching his fear. Ralph was such a strong person, but there

he lay trembling. After he got stabilized, I left the hospital, still shaken.


I came back the next day to see him, and he was alone. Instead of greeting me with his

usual wisecracks, he was quiet. We exchanged pleasantries. Then Ralph went on and on,

explaining how his body was too weak to move, his brain too fuzzy to think, his stomach churn

with terror, how he was in absolute agony. And the same fear in the room last night was coming

back to his face.


I didn’t know what to say. I felt panic surge through my veins too, but then words

tumbled out of my mouth, coming not from me but from God who looks out for me—“I think

God is with you here in this hospital now. I think God is hurting with you.”


Then I added, “I want to read some Scripture to you that’s been helpful to me in tough

times.” I promise you, that wasn’t my idea. I don’t have many good ideas or wise words, but the

Holy Spirit helps us when we don’t know what to say.


I read Psalm 131, and we were silent, and the panic in his face drained away, and my own

heart began to slow down. “That was a good one,” Ralph said, “a real good Scripture. I’ve got to

remember that one. But I’m ready to go to sleep now.” Through experiencing this psalm, the

worry that was shackling us both turned to peace, a peace that gave him rest after an anxious and

sleepless night before, a peace that I have carried with me since.


Sometimes stress piles up. Sometimes terrible things happen for which there are no good

words. Sometimes fear grabs ahold of us. Sometimes questions eat away at our spirits, questions

to which there are no complete answers this side of eternity.


The book of Psalms is full of these cries of pain. Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes while he

is hanging on the cross, says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 130, the

psalm before our Scripture reading today, says, “Out of the depths I cry out to you Lord.”


It is never wrong to cry out to God. But I believe God also brings us to times where, as

Psalm 131 says, we can lay down “great matters,” questions and fears and struggles. We are

always God’s children. Some times we will be crying children, other times we will be still and

sleepy, at peaceful rest. I believe Ralph and I found that sort of peaceful rest in that hospital room.


I want you to hear the words of Psalm 131 that were a light to Ralph and me in that dark

anxiety. Can someone who feels led read the scripture for us? And as our reader reads for us, I’d

like for you to close your eyes, to try lay down any stress you might be experiencing, and to

imagine yourself as that child on God’s arms.


What does it mean to be a child of God?

Congregational Responses:

It means that we’re forgiven.

It’s inexplicable.

It means we have a family, that we are brothers and sisters

That we are sanctified and set apart.

That we want to do the best we can to do better.

That even when we mess up, we can look forward to the coming kingdom.

That we are protected.


Psalm 131 ends with a call to hope, one based not on ourselves but on the God who

already claimed us as beloved children.


So you are wrestling with doubts and questions? Child of God, a time is coming when

you will be able to lay them aside, and know deep spiritual rest in the arms already gathered

around you.


So you are facing danger, fearful for the safety of your body, mind, or spirit? Child of

God, your heavenly Mother and Father’s arms are all around you, will never stop embracing you

in this life or the next.


So you are sick of being judged, exhausted by labels and masks you have worn too long,

or stumbling under a heavy weight of shame for your past? Child of God, fear rejection no

longer. You have been welcomed into spiritual family—a heavenly Mother/Father God, and

brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you will sit at God’s table forever.


As most of you know, each time we worship we have a benediction, a final blessing, that

goes like this—Whose child are you? God’s child! Those words are so very important. Those

words are a stand we take against shame and fear and judgment that tricks us into thinking we

are alone and unworthy.


But like the old spiritual says, If anybody asks me who I am, tell ‘em I’m a child of God!


Because you are God’s child, you have a hope money can’t buy and nobody can steal,

that won’t expire, run out or grow old. A hope that lasts forevermore. Rest in your heavenly

Parent’s arms, this day and always. Amen.