by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Hear my cry, O God, *
and listen to my prayer.
I call upon you from the ends of the earth
with heaviness in my heart; *
set me upon the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, *
a strong tower against the enemy.
I will dwell in your house for ever; *
I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.
For you, O God, have heard my vows; *
you have granted me the heritage of those
who fear your Name.
Add length of days to the king’s life; *
let his years extend over many generations.
Let him sit enthroned before God for ever; *
bid love and faithfulness watch over him.
So will I always sing the praise of your Name, *
and day by day I will fulfill my vows.
My maternal grandparents came to the United States of America from Germany before the start of WWII.
My grandmother and her sister came to visit the New York World’s Fair and never returned to their home. When they arrived they were afraid to speak German in public for fear their language would give them away as Germans. Their homes were destroyed and they lost everything from their life in Germany.
My grandfather, serving in the German Merchant Marines, jumped ship in New York Harbor. He later joined the U.S. Army allowing him to become a United States citizen. The story goes that he joined the military with their word that he wouldn’t be sent to Germany to fight. He was sent to fight in the Pacific.
My grandparents met as immigrants in New York city, later married and had a daughter, my mother. Their story is my story. Their story is like so many others coming to the US by any means possible in order to have a better life. Their story is one of being welcomed and being provided refuge. Of trusting in the hospitality of strangers and in the hope of a better life for themselves and their family.
The psalmist writes, “I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.” I can hear the cries of so many who utter the psalmist’s words as their own:
From those longing for peace.
From those hoping that they will know a world free of violence and war.
From those battling depression and anxiety.
From those desiring restored relationships.
From those seeking help from addiction.
From those who have been left behind.
The psalms are our prayer book, our songs, our lament, our trust, our words. This morning the psalmist’s words compel me to reflect on refuge and who is in need of it. The psalmist reminds me that God’s refuge is for everyone. At all times and in all places. That God’s refuge for us calls us to provide refuge for others.
We call on God and ask God to hear our prayers. We trust in God’s presence in our lives. We remember the history of our ancestors. And we reach out with open hands so that our lives become a refuge for the world.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is http://www.kimberlyknowlezeller.com