Dear First Pres Family,
On Sunday in worship I began by sharing about a big event in the life of my family. My eldest daughter Elizabeth was married May 19th to her fiancé, now husband, Marty. It was a rich and wonderful week culminating in a day to treasure. I even snuck in a few pictures on Sunday to share a taste. It simply doesn’t get much better or bigger than that, when it comes to the major life decisions and events you experience and what you yearn for your children to experience. While it was not by any means a typical sermon kick off as one of your pastors, I wanted to give you a glimpse into a very significant piece of my life.
But indeed, there was a lot more to Sunday’s message. If you decide to mark out the time, you can listen to the sermon here… I went on to dig into the third and final chapter of the prophet Habakkuk. This was the last message in this series that related to the journey of faith in the midst of suffering – or perhaps our journey of suffering in the midst of our faith. As we have heard these weeks, the people of Israel had it very rough in the time of this prophet. Very bad things had been happening and God let Habakkuk in on it that worse was yet to come. So the prophet was troubled; shaking in his boots; crying out to God.
And as we saw, even in the midst of his fear and trembling, Habakkuk came to a place of strength and trust. In his weakness he leaned into God’s strength. And in that strength, he trusted in the loving caring creator of the Universe. In the face of the nation being overrun, dreams being shattered, and livelihoods being destroyed, Habakkuk came to the place of surrender. He came to that place even in the face of such devastation, suffering, loss and pain. He proclaimed with his lips, and resolved in his heart, mind, and will: “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
That may sound to you like a usual biblical pronouncement. Or, that may sound incredible to you. I’ll let you in on something. This statement by the prophet Habakkuk is considered one of the most profound and strongest statements of faith in all of the scriptures. It is not commonplace. Habakkuk has learned the lesson of faith; he has learned to trust in God’s providence, God’s protective care, regardless of life’s circumstances. Regardless. He declares that even as life sends suffering and loss, he will still rejoice in God his Savior.
In the face of poor health, tragic illness, financial hardship, the loss of a loved one, a job demotion or layoff, a struggling marriage, chronic pain, or perpetual depression or anxiety, life can feel awfully terrible and God can seem no where to be found. Habakkuk, and his people, felt they had no where to go, nothing for today, no hope and no future. Yet he led them and modeled for them a decision to trust in God no matter how bad it looked or how bad it was. He decided: “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” In the face of life’s joy’s and sorrows, grateful to be together, trusting in the Lord, the God of our salvation.
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care
P.S. Each year at this time we celebrate Vacation Bible School. We have other big times in our church year, but this is a very big one. Big, because over 275 children are gathered together – many from within the congregation, but many from the surrounding communities, too. Big, because dozens of volunteers are pouring themselves into VBS to help serve the children and honor God. Big, because we can be confident that God through his Spirit is at work in the hearts of these boys and girls. Big, because the theme this year is one of prayer, “You Pray” and many of the children are going to be engaging with and understanding prayer in a way they never have. With a few days left to go, PLEASE KEEP PRAYING.