Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Perhaps you have been following this year’s parade of hurricanes. I read somewhere that there had recently been a record amount of time between large hurricanes hitting the U.S. mainland. However, 2017 seems to have made up for the recent lack of storms. First Harvey drenched Texas with over 50” of rain in some places. Then Irma lashed at the Caribbean and made its way up the Florida peninsula and into the southeast US with wind and rain and destruction. Next Jose threatened the US, specifically the upper northeast, bringing wind and rain to New York and surrounding areas. Now Maria brings destruction to Puerto Rico and to who knows where else.
You may know that I am currently in Florida to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday this week. So, having flown into Orlando, and then driving up to Gainesville, I got to see some of the results of Hurricane Irma a week after it hit. In some ways central and northern Florida seem to have been spared major damage. I have family in those areas. Some were without power for a time. Others lost trees and shingles. Thankfully, no one was in any danger.
However, even in North Florida where the storm had weakened when it hit, the results of Hurricane Irma linger. There are still piles of trees and brush along roads and highways for crews to pick up. Many of the swamps have become lakes. My dad lives on a golf course that used to have 3 little ponds. Each of those ponds have swelled so that each pond now covers part of 3 different holes and a golfer cannot walk from one hole to another. There have been pumps diverting the water since I arrived on Monday. I can see the water flowing from the pumps, but I have yet to see any result in how high the water appears.
So, how do you weather the storms of life? It seems that we have seen trials and tribulations more than normal in recent days. Sunday, September 17, David Grosz shared in worship about his fight with lymphoma. Our community is still reeling from the recent tragic fire deaths of 5 young girls in their home. And, as pastor I know of many other major struggles being faced by members and friends of our congregation. Sometimes life’s storms feel overwhelming, beyond our ability to stand. Life can seem like this year’s storm season with storm after storm lashing at the lives of God’s people. How do you weather the storms of life?
In worship last Sunday David shared two main lessons he learned as he suffered through his illness and treatment. First, David spoke from experience that, in spite of the ravages of illness that come, God is faithful. God keeps His promises of love. No matter the outcome, God is with us. We have all heard those words. I thank David that he was willing to share the truth of God’s presence as he has personally weathered the storm of lymphoma with the Lord’s promises and presence.
Second, David shared how God’s church provided support and comfort and help to him and his family during their storm. David thanked us for our prayers, visits, meals, and other help given. Being part of a Christian congregation can be a real place of refuge through the storms of life!
Do you remember the account of Jesus and His disciples as they made their way in a boat across the Sea of Galilee? We are told in Matthew 8: 24, “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” “Without warning!!” That sounds like our lives. Even though we live in a world ravaged by sin, we don’t expect the diagnoses, the tragedies, the losses, the illnesses, the betrayals, and the struggles. Sometimes it does seem like Jesus is asleep while we suffer. But, He is there, present with us as life batters us with its wind and waves.
Did you know that many times the church is pictured as the boat which God provides to help His people ride out the storms of life? In acolyte classes our young people learn that even some of the names of parts of the church have nautical background. The storms of life will come, often unexpectedly and with horrible fury. But God gives His church to help us weather those storms. Hebrews 10:25 is often understandably quoted to encourage worship attendance. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” But, God also talks in this verse of how His people encourage one another as we see “the day”, or the storms, approaching.
When we face tragic illnesses, losses, and trials God intends for His church to be a place of relative safety even though the storms of life do rage. God intends for His Word to assure us of His promised love and salvation. God’s plan is that through regular worship and fellowship we are encouraged through our tragedies and trials. God seals us in Jesus for eternal life as we receive His forgiveness in our baptisms and in the Lord’s Supper. God’s church is that boat that helps us weather the storms of life.
In Gainesville where my dad lives, it will be a while before the brush is picked up and the waters recede and life totally gets back to normal. Unfortunately, we know the storms of life will come. Thankfully, God gives His Church as a refuge in the storm to carry us across the sea of life to the shores of eternity.
A Child of God, Weathering Life’s Storms in the Refuge of God’s Church,
P.S. In 2007 Kathy and Jamie and I traveled to Israel. One of the sites we saw showed a boat discovered in the mud of the Sea of Galilee in 1986 during a severe drought. The boat was dated to the time of Jesus. Also, many of the characteristics of this boat match the kind of boat that fishermen like Andrew and Peter, James and John, used during Jesus’ day. Here are some pictures we took of “the Jesus Boat.” https://photos.app.goo.gl/ElnGt7aGwe6JtIHp2
P.P.S. Here are some pictures of the bounty of our garden picked on final harvest day, 9-16-2017. The next day we shared much of this at church. https://photos.app.goo.gl/lrPW68g4p860MCmv2
P.P.P.S. Here are some fish pictures from my last salmon fishing trip of the year. I threw all these fish back, but the day was beautiful and the outdoors enjoyable - https://photos.app.goo.gl/foCaHQUzKSW1FCP93
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.