Prepping for Storms // M-Note 6.29.2019

Dear Gathering,

Friday afternoon I was with my family at a nearby lake. It was a pleasant, if not hot, afternoon and then suddenly, the skies opened up. We barely had time to get back to our car before the storm was raging around us with high winds and massive downpours. Suddenly what was just minutes ago a serene, peaceful, quiet place (and not to mention dry) was transformed. Tents blowing across the lake, people running to shelter, and scariest of all, rivers suddenly sprouting up from nothing in minutes just because of the torrential downpour. As we were driving away I began to actually get nervous that we would be on one of those news stories – a family caught in a flash flood. We ended up getting out just fine, but not without heightened nerves. As we were driving away, I thought to myself, “how quickly things can change.”

It has been a season of these kinds of storms in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest. If you have been paying attention you know that there is flooding happening all over our own state and in the surrounding areas. Some places have reported all-time records for rainfall and river levels. Even here in the city, the flash floods can quickly transform low points that have never seen water into rushing rivers – and it all can happen in a matter of minutes. The entire landscape can change, and often without much warning and in ways that are unpredictable.

Sitting in my car in the rain Friday, and being the pastor that I am, I couldn’t help but think about a story that Jesus told 2000 years ago. Jesus used the image of a storm to talk about life. He told a story about two guys, each built a house. The houses both looked nice, both provided adequate shelter, both looked solid, at least from the outside. But soon a flood came. The rains fell and the water rose and suddenly it tested the integrity of each house. One made it, the other didn’t. Jesus says that those who listen to him are like wise builders.

As a resident of Webster Groves, where nearly every basement floods in a storm, the story can hit a little too close to home. But the message isn’t really about construction or leaky basements – it is about how we build our lives. Jesus is saying something that is at once simple and yet incredibly timely for me. During good times, it is easy to live your life without much thought, without the need to build much capacity or strength. During good times, it is easy for faith in Christ or connection with God to fall by the wayside. After all, when things are good, we don’t need it as much. But much like a storm out of nowhere, life can change in an instant. A medical diagnosis, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a challenge to your marriage – all of this in more can change the contours of life immediately. Suddenly what was once dry land, serene, peaceful and relaxing can become like angry storm or a raging river. We cannot predict when those storms of life will kick up, but we know they will. When they do, suddenly that faith in Christ or connection with God that didn’t seem important moments ago can become for us a lifejacket or a rescue beacon in the midst of the storm. 

The essence of the story as I read it is this: build your life with the storms in mind. Storms (hopefully) don’t happen very often, but when they do, we want lives that can withstand them. It is easy when life is fine, when schedules are humming along and summer has us busy to ignore God or put faith on the back burner. It is common to neglect faith when all is well. But remember that during these seasons, it is important to stay connected to God, to grow our relationship with Jesus, and to stay engaged. In an instant, storms can appear, and life can change. The faith that moments before might have seemed incidental, can suddenly save us.  I know I needed that reminder during this season of my life, and I hope you do as well. I hope you enjoy the rest of your (hopefully storm free) weekend and I cannot wait to be back in worship with you this Sunday,


p.s. I know many of you have asked me when I will be back in worship preaching. This is the weekend I return after a mini sabbatical which included some vacation time, a conference and a trip to Mozambique with a team from the church. I am really excited to be back preaching this Sunday and I hope I get to see you.