Our place

Pastoral Messages | September 14, 2017

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen images of women in wheelchairs as their Houston area nursing home flooded. We’ve watched video of the streets of downtown Miami full of water flowing like rivers. We’ve looked at pictures of the British Virgin Islands from the sky with the island completely brown as hurricane force winds blew all the leaves off every single tree.

But we’ve also seen pictures of endless rows of trucks pulling fishing boats driving toward the storms to help rescue people stranded. Nuns brandishing chainsaws. Rescue personnel taking enormous risks for the sake of strangers.

These natural disasters tend to bring out the best in us. Maybe it’s because they are a great equalizer. People living in poverty face the greatest challenges in these storms, but the rain falls on the rich and poor alike.

These storms are devastating and disorienting. Even those of us who watch them from the safety of our homes hundreds of miles away, experience a de-centering awareness as we see the storm’s power. We realize that we are in less control of our lives than we like to believe. All the material stuff we invest in is actually just stuff (a lot easier to say, I know, with my electricity working and closet full of dry clothes). These moments remind us that each one of us is enormously dependent on one another and this planet.

It puts us right next to our ancestors in faith, who endured the powers of storms and mighty seas without the benefit of meteorologists or concrete foundations, looking to God for help and courage. Throughout the Psalms, we hear believers call out to God whose power is greater than the storms. Jesus’ divine strength is seen after he calms a storm while riding a boat with his disciples. They ask each other, “who is this then, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Along with people of faith of every generation, these storms remind us that despite all our achievements and brilliance, God is still God and we are not. We aren’t the center of things, with sole control of our lives. But this realization can be the most empowering and liberating truth.

It’s freeing to understand our place in the order of things, dependent on one another and all of creation for our well-being and flourishing. We can use our energy not in attempts to control but in humble service to the most vulnerable, joining forces for good with those boat drivers and rescue workers. As people of faith amazed at the power and vulnerability of our created world and changing climate, we have particular responsibility (and delight) in doing everything we can to protect it.

Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

4 Comments on “Our place”

  • Patricia Gerwig

    September 17, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    My husband and I have been looking at St. Paul’s website since we discovered that Josh Kestner was to join your congregation in pastoral residency. We know Josh well and love him dearly. I just finished reading the blogs for September and appreciate the thoughts on the fairness(or lack of) in this world – being one of those children who thought life should be fair. One of the members of my Sunday School class here in SC shared a situation he is in due to the unfairness of the world. I needed a reminder today that God is present in this world. Thank you

  • Joan Bruce

    September 16, 2017 at 11:15 am

    “God is God and we are not” spoke bundles to me. As a person who likes to be in control, this was a beautiful and meaningful message about both our need to trust in and rely on God as well as the realization of our being a part of a much larger community and all the joys and responsibility for humble service that that entails.
    Thank you, Pastor Sara.

  • David DeWit

    September 14, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Seeing the devastation of so many homes and lives, I I cannot begin to imagine the effect on me were I in the same situation as the multitude of hurricane victims. It causes me to realize how many of the good things in life I enjoy but take for granted. It reminded me to be be ever thankful for those things and to appreciate them while I’ve go them. That way, if some of those things are taken away, I will at least be able to say that I appreciated them when I had them and was aware that they were blessing from God. A grateful heart is something I need to work much harder to develop.

  • Stella Herzig

    September 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Wonderful message Pastor Sara! Thank you for lifting up humble service, rather than control, with God at the center!

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”