Church Life, Ministry, Psalms

Over the Flood

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the
LORD, over mighty waters.
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king
forever.
~Psalm 29:3,10
 
On my first trip to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane
Katrina, I volunteered to preach for two weeks at a Methodist church. One of
those Sundays was the Baptism of Christ, just like this coming Sunday, and the
Psalm was 29. I felt good about the decision to go — right up until I read the
texts for those days. How could I bring a word of comfort with scriptures about
God sitting enthroned over the flood? For the people I would meet, the flood was
no fantasy; it was alarming reality. The community, torn by storm and its
aftermath, grieved for the lost family members and friends, the lost landmarks
and the lost way of life. Where was the Good News?
 
Suddenly making the trip didn't seem so simple.
 
It was not the first time, and won't be the last
that I wondered if I really had what it took to complete a task. Sometimes we
feel called forward to do something new or something different, and we take the
first step, and then we wonder where to even put our foot next.
 
This past Sunday, the Pastoral Search Committee and
the congregation at First Parish promised each other their support. On Monday I saw a
committee member in the office, preparing some of the materials
the committee will need. She admitted there is a lot to consider! And she is right,
the work of the search committee is significant. Although I will support them in
the first stages, the work will ultimately be theirs. And no doubt there will be
moments when they wonder how it will all be accomplished.
 
When I felt this way about going to the Gulf Coast, I eventually came to the realization that if I felt
called to make that trip, the Holy Spirit would make it with me. God would supply the words that needed to be spoken, using the material of the gospel and my study and experiences, the same way it happens every week.

And really, that's what a Search Committee uses, too. The text is the life of the church and the community, and the profile they will write expresses their Good News, a real word about who they are and what they hope to be that includes the truth, even when that truth may include loss along the way.

On the first Sunday I preached on the Gulf Coast, I heard about a congregation member who had lost her sister the night before, a sad loss on New Year's Eve. This elderly lady had lost a brother in the storm, and the sister had been moved from a nursing home nearby to another far away. I felt again the grief and rage of the storm, wondered how I could do anything to help; could I reach out to her? Would she want a visit from a stranger?

That morning she came to the church service, to the utter amazement of everyone present. But for her, church was the only place to be on that New Year's morning, the place where even the most senseless losses could be faced, in the presence of the Spirit.

God did not cause the storm, I hold to that, but God, above and around it, remained present to us.

3 thoughts on “Over the Flood”

  1. I feel that same sense of being overwhelmed in my own work sometimes. In educational publishing, we work with very tight deadlines, and what we produce gets scrutinized by SO many people. You have no idea. Often I pray for God to give me ideas or to lead me to the sources I need. And so often he does.

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