You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “Mi refugio and my fortress…” – Psalm 91:1-2 (NRSV)
Refugio. I think it’s one of the loveliest words in Spanish. Refugio means shelter or protection from danger or distress, whether it’s pestilence or the terrors de la noche (of the night) as the psalmist writes. Refugio can also mean a place—or a person—who provides such protection.
In Psalm 91, refugio is a way to describe God—but with a twist. In the psalmist’s understanding, the Most High God, the Almighty, is like an ordinary mother hen: gathering her chicks under her wings, willing to give her very life to keep them safe, protect them, give them refugio.
What can we possibly do with a faith that describes Almighty God as a common chicken, spreading her wings over her chicks?
I think we can trust it. Jesus did. Before he entered Jerusalem, he stopped on the other side of the valley and wept over the city, wishing he could keep its inhabitants safe. But he didn’t speak of an army or a fortress. Instead he wanted to gather them like a mother hen gathers her brood. An everyday chicken was his image of refugio.
When we gather for worship, we do so to find such refugio in our own lives. We gather also to offer refugio to others. Who knows who will need your prayers and presence this Sunday? Who will need to see your welcoming eyes or hear your voice greeting or singing a hymn? Refugio can come in such ordinary ways, as common as a barnyard bird gathering her babies.
How will you offer such refugio this week? And who will be refugio to you?
When it comes to needing your refugio, we are all baby chicks, looking for protection. All refugees. Help us remember. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.