Dear Hyde Park,
30  “But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Just now, I bet you barely took a pause between reading verses 30 and 31 of Matthew 14. Peter cried out for help, then Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. Call, then response. Just like that.
The truth is, we could just as easily separate those two verses with about 24 hours, spanning from, say, last Sunday morning to last Monday morning. We were all Peter last weekend, facing the strong wind, gripped with fear, and our spirits beginning to sink. In so many ways, we each cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Then, 24 hours later, we woke up to a brand new day. The storm departed, the wind ceased, and the dreaded storm surge that was to engulf South Tampa never materialized. We were left with downed trees and loss of electricity, but mostly blinking and bleary-eyed with disbelief. We wondered how we were spared, when nearly every other part of Florida was so devastated.

Then Jesus said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I’ve always interpreted that line to be one of rebuke from Jesus. “C’mon, folks,” I hear Jesus say. “Amp up the faith, tone down the doubt. Get yourselves together.”
But I don’t think Jesus is reprimanding us right now. I am hearing a different tone in his voice, one that is instructive and inviting, not chastising. What I hear is, “Okay. So what will you learn from this experience? What did this storm teach you?”
Those are the questions we will be exploring this Sunday. And I’m wondering, what has this experience of dealing with Hurricane Irma taught you?
  • What has it revealed about who you are?
  • Or what you value?
  • Or what you are most fearful of?
  • Or what you would do differently in preparation for next time?
  • And how are you going to minister to those who are suffering?
Would you be willing to share with me what this experience has taught you? I would love for you to email me your responses, as I discern the content of my sermon for this Sunday.
No, I do not think God causes hurricanes, or even allows them to happen. Nor do I think God uses human suffering to reprimand us. Instead, I believe in a God of resurrection and second chances, who is with us in suffering, ready to reach out a hand. Then, it is incumbent on us to learn the lessons that this experience is teaching us.
We are continuing our collection of flood cleaning buckets and hygiene kits, expecting now that many of our donations will stay here in Florida to assist with recovery from Hurricane Irma. With the rising flood waters of the nearby Alafia River, many communities in our own county will be in great need. Those communities include Lithia, where former staff member Erick Ashley and wife Tracey serve churches and are in urgent need of buckets and kits. We encourage you to complete those donations and bring them to the church this Sunday.
In addition, bay area United Methodist churches are collecting donations of non-perishable food items, water, batteries, and other hurricane supplies for immediate delivery to Naples and South Florida. If there are items that you stockpiled which you no longer need, or if you can purchase items for donation, please bring them to the Courtyard outside the Sanctuary this Sunday.
It’s great to be on the other side of this storm. Now, let’s make God’s love real for others.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

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