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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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight