june 21

Weathering the Storm

We know a little bit about storms, don’t we? Last winter, the East coast was slammed with incredible amounts of snow. The Southwest has gone through drought for several years. Tornados rip through the central part of the country, the South is trying to stay afloat from flooding. And according to Mike Moenter’s rain gauge, we’ve had just over 9” of rain since May 5th.

The storms come and go out of our control. Similar to life, it isn’t a question whether the storms will come or not, but when will they will show up? Their timing seems random and severity a secret. Guarantees are no where to be found.

David as a shepherd boy, walked into a storm without realizing it when he visited his brothers in the army. Noticing that the military men were hiding in fear of the Philistine giant, the boy could not sit back and listen to the intimidating bully spew his hate and insults toward God. With courage in his convictions toward God, he confronted Goliath without fear. It he lived or died, he would be glorifying God. No guarantee, just walking in faith!

Jesus and the disciples got in the boat to go to the other side. This wasn’t a small lake; it was a sea. And Jesus must have been tired to have slept during a storm that was swamping their boat. In desperation, the disciples woke him up and pressed, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Fear can cause us to ‘zoom in’ on the moment, blurring our view of the bigger picture. Jesus was in the disciple’s presence and he was not going to carelessly leave them. Of COURSE, Jesus cared. In the chaos, he got up to calm the storm and then went into disciple training mode. “Why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?”

The same questions can be posed to each of us during our storms. Why are you afraid? Do you have no faith? These deep questions bring attention to a very gray line between fear and faith. During your storms, where or in whom do you put your trust? If we are following Christ, then doesn’t that mean that he is guiding us through our difficult and sometimes scary storms? And if he is guiding us, then what do we have to fear?

Storms come in different forms and severity. Earlier this week, a severe and unexpected storm arrived in our lives when 9 people were killed at a Bible Study inside a sanctuary in South Carolina. It so happens that Pastor Matt Musteric from Bethlehem in Pemberville attended seminary with Pastor Clementa Pinckney who was killed in this tragic event. How do we deal with the storm?

While the media quickly turned the tragedy into political issues, racism and hate are human issues unsolved by laws. We need a change of heart that comes with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ alone. I witnessed a powerful example of faith and the beginning of healing as a result of this tragedy. Several relatives of the murder victims faced the accused and (filled with emotion) extended their forgiveness to him. (Read New York Times piece.)

We cannot get through these storms by our own power. Jesus alone is our strength and our healing. When confronted with bullies, health issues, relational problems, job stresses, you name it, our only source of peace is found in Christ. Forgiveness didn’t take away the pain of victim’s families. But they were faithful in seeking God’s will to forgive (as we are told to do) while dealing with their anger and grief. And through it, hate is released and healing begins.

When we proclaim Christ’s love and forgiveness on Sundays, it should also nurture conversations about compassion for people, no matter their category during the rest of the week. Our faith is a 24/7 faith. God doesn’t take a break from us. Let’s renew a daily commitment to prayer for God’s wisdom, guidance, love, and mercy to transform words into actions every day of the week. May God have mercy on the congregation in Charleston and on the entire Body of Christ. Amen.