First, a pastoral word.
This has been quite a week. Hurricane Irma has been a looming threat for the past several days. For many of us, our nerves are frazzled and our minds are on high alert. Emotions have vacillated between fear for the future and a determination to press on.
These have been tiring days and sleepless nights, watching the latest track updates, waiting in lines for water and gas, and running through exhausting mental checklists. Many of us have been on edge, filled with worry, anticipating the worst.
My pastoral word to you is to remember that no matter what, God is in this with us.
Please take a moment, whenever your anxiety and stress level is high, to do a few things. Breathe. Don’t panic. Pray.Remember that God will provide you a peace that passes your understanding. Stay centered in Christ. Do what needs to be done, but do not be afraid.
CALM AMID THE STORM
281 years ago, John Wesley was in a hurricane. He didn’t call it that, but based on his description of being in storm-tossed ship in the middle of the Atlantic, it sure sounded like one:
At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before. The winds roared round about us, and whistled as distinctly as if it had been a human voice. The ship not only rocked to and fro with the utmost violence, but shook and jarred with so unequal, grating motion, that one could not but with great difficulty keep one’s hold of anything, nor stand a moment without it. Every ten minutes came a shock against the stern or side of the ship, which one would think should dash the planks to pieces. (from Wesley’s journal, February 6, 1736)
Sounds like scary stuff. Enough to make us fear for the worst, and there was a part of him that certainly did. But here’s the part that is so powerful. Amid the storm, Wesley found solace from a surprising source. Among his shipmates were a group of German Moravian Christians, whose calm, peaceful strength made an indelible impression on him.
The next time you feel frazzled or anxious, read this next portion of Wesley’s journal:
In the midst of the Psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on.
I asked one of them afterward, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.” From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbors, and pointed out to them the difference, in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth Him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.
The countenance of these Moravian Christians made a deep impact on Wesley’s life. It not only kept him calm during the storm, but it inspired him to draw closer to God in his walk with Christ. It made him want that same assurance for himself, eventually leading him to a Moravian worship service one night back in London, on Aldersgate Street, where he felt his heart “strangely warmed,” changing his life forever.
Remember that Jesus can still speak into the storms of your spirit and say, “Peace, be still.” Breathe, relax, and sing praise. And again, remember that God is in this with us.
UPDATES FOR THIS WEEKEND
Finally, here is some important information regarding the church’s plans this weekend:
Unless the county calls for the evacuation of South Tampa, we will proceed with worship this Sunday.
- We will consolidate our services to offer three identical worship services at 8:30, 9:30, and 11 a.m., with 9:30 and 11 viewable online at hydeparkumc.org/live.
- I will preach a sermon of comfort and challenge amid the storm, and there will be a time of prayer for ourselves and all those affected by Hurricane Irma.
- It will be a “Sit-Together Sunday” for our children to join us in worship, so that our Sunday Morning Live volunteers can be with their families.
- Our Open Arms ministry will be on as usual for our homeless guests.
- There will be a special 5:30 p.m. prayer service at The Portico campus.
- The Ministry Offices will be closed on Friday so that our staff can make final preparations with their families.
Should any of these Sunday plans change, we will notify you via email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the outgoing message on the church’s main phone line.
We will be continuing our flood bucket drive this Sunday, inviting you to purchase and donate flood relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It is also very possible that our buckets will be used for people in our own state, in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We encourage you to bring your completed buckets to the church by Monday, Sept. 18.
We pray God’s blessing on you, your family, and all those who will and have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
Please ensure your own safety and wellbeing, and may we all experience God’s peace.
Blessings and Peace,
the Rev. Magrey deVega
Photo with hands, credit: Cristopher Benitah