Detail photo of plaster work depicting a bird and foliage in Trinity Church

Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: The Promised Shelter of God’s Wings


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter
and from the deadly pestilence.

He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings;
his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

A thousand shall fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
but it shall not come near you.

Your eyes have only to behold
to see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,

There shall no evil happen to you,
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over you,
to keep you in all your ways.

They shall bear you in their hands,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and adder;
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.

This Sunday’s famous Psalm 91 is about shelter. The Psalmist imagines a little bird, trapped in a “fowler’s snare” and unable to break free. The heart of this little bird beats fast in its breast — it is injured and trembling — it can barely see out of the cage it has found itself in. All around the little bird, a “pestilence” rages, with much to fear outside. The whole world is full of terrors and the little bird cries out, longing for rescue.

God turns this tragedy on its head. The psalmist envisions God as a powerful and wise mother bird, swooping down to release her beloved little one from its trap — bringing the bird to a “secret place” of comfort and safety, under the protection of her wings. In the shadow of God’s feathers, the little bird’s heart is stilled. It nestles in, confident that it is now in a space of healing and peace.

The psalmist claims that we, God’s beloved children, are like that little bird, vulnerable in a world of “lions and adders,” and living on roads where we might easily “dash our [feet] on a stone,” susceptible to sins that cause us to stumble. Despite this, the psalmist claims that God watches over us, when we ask for God’s help. God keeps us from harm and rescues us from both the traps we are placed in by others, and the ones we build ourselves. God is with us “in trouble,” sheltering us in the holy dwelling place of the Most High.

Such a vision of promised shelter is a great comfort, one that we should share with others. For we too, from our place of final safety, are called to bring safety to others — to provide shelter and protection for those trapped in cycles of poverty, pain, or plague. The shelter of God is in this way both a “secret,” and snug harbor, and a broad, encircling space — a place where all who draw near to God and call on God are welcome.

—Summerlee Staten

Leslie Scoopmire considers “Stones along the Way.”

The Episcopal Community Foundation in North Georgia helps people overcome being trapped in generational cycles of poverty, providing shelter for those who need it the most.

The famous Stuttgart Psalter includes a strong image of Psalm 91.

Christian Wiman considers prayer and the need for a place of peace.

Singer-songwriter Kim Hill leads us to “the secret place of the Most High.”

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Coming Up

Where is God when we suffer? Sundays at 10am, join Discovery for a series exploring the book of Job and discuss how the story of one man who lost it all speaks to us today. Upcoming guest speakers include Dr. Choon-Leong Seow, Rabbi Darren, and Marilyn Green and members of Trinity’s Movement Choir. 

Mondays at 5:30pm, join Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones for The River: Poetry and Practice as she leads mindfulness practice, reflects on a contemporary poem, shares how poetry can be used on your spiritual journey, and provides questions for ongoing reflection.