A Message from the Pastor
With the month of August, many families have already taken their summer vacations and are now returning to their familiar routines of work and school. With that, I’d like to share the following, and those of you, who like me did some hiking this summer, may find it somewhat amusing.
A few years ago, one of our nation’s national parks set out a suggestion box for those who had come to enjoy the outdoors and in particular, a wilderness trail. This was done to ascertain whether there was anything, they could do to enhance people’s enjoyment of the park. These are some of the actual comments received. “The trails need to be redone in order to avoid having to go uphill.” “There are too many bugs, and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to get rid of these pests.” “Please provide chair lifts or escalators so that we can get to the higher elevations.” “The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept us awake, please eradicate these annoying animals.” and my personal favorite, “A McDonald’s would be nice at the beginning or end of the main trail.”
These comments clearly indicate that those individuals who had made them really did not understand the concept of what it meant to be in the wilderness, or perhaps more likely, they were much more interested in an experience that would be convenient and comfortable. In other words, they were committed to enjoying the great outdoors only if doing so didn’t exceed what they perceived to be a reasonable amount of inconvenience, time, cost, and effort.
Commitment or lack thereof, is something that Jesus addressed fairly often. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26. Ouch! Why would Jesus say such a terrible thing? Basically, because many of the people who were following him were doing so for the wrong reasons and hadn’t counted the cost in doing so.
How many of them do you suppose were like those half-hearted wilderness hikers? People only willing to follow Jesus providing the cost of discipleship isn’t too high? How many people do you suppose this describes in the Christian Church today? Sadly, it may indeed be an accurate reflection of many. Folks who are only willing to follow Jesus so long as they perceive that doing so will provide some type of benefit. People who quickly grow disillusioned and abandon the faith, church, and worship when doing so starts to cost them…perhaps seen in lost friendships, business opportunities, or it becomes an inconvenience.
I share this because the times are becoming perilous for those who truly follow our Lord and doing so is going to cost us something at some point as the devil continues to gain influence in our society.
But despite the growing cost of your discipleship…be encouraged…for we have a God who committed himself to us and our redemption by sending His own Son to pay our way into heaven so that we who have been called to faith and to follow our Savior will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. “And then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” – Matthew 25:34
Serving our Savior,
C.F.W. Walther, the first President of the LCMS, wrote the following devotion based upon Matthew 8:26-27. Although written some 150 years ago, I think it beautifully addresses many of the issues that we face today as Christians and it will encourage you in your daily walk with Christ. – Pastor Roloff
It is true that Christ slept as the disciples in the boat were in the greatest danger. It certainly seemed as if he was utterly unaware of their plight, but appearances can be deceiving. Christ slept, but only according to his human nature. He also remained the protector of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. According to his divinity, he was awake and aware of everything that was happening. And he saw to it that the boat would not be wrecked, despite the storm and the waves. His sleeping before the eyes of the disciples was a test to strengthen their faith through affliction and to awaken them to prayer. When he was bodily awakened by the disciples’ cries for help, he let the stormy sea rage on while he first attended to the storm in the hearts of his followers, who were trembling and weak in faith.
“Then” our text tells us, “He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.” This was a totally incomprehensible miracle, which demonstrated that Christ is also the Lord of nature. It sometimes happens that a heavy gale at sea dies down, but the waves continue to tower for some time before they gradually diminish. However, as Mark reports, as soon as Christ rebuked the sea and wind, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39) both immediately complied. The howling storm was replaced by silence, and the surface of the sea became smooth and clear, reflecting the glittering stars. Full of amazement, all of those in the boat cried out, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Here we have an inexpressibly comforting picture of today’s Church. The world, with its learning and power, is like a sea stirred up by a strong storm. It attacks the ship of the Church, whose destruction appears to be inevitable, and it seems as if Christ is asleep at the helm. The members of the Church, who are still of little faith, already cry out in despair: “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” Many, full of doubts, may abandon the ship of the Church and plunge back into the sea of the world. Yet, there is no cause for alarm. Christ remains aboard our ship, and according to his divine omniscience, omnipotence, and care, he does not sleep. When his hour comes, he will rise up, rebuke us for our little faith, and say to the wind-driven world, “Peace! Be still!” Then the world will be stilled, and the ship of the Church will enter into the harbor of heaven. For Christ has promised, “On this rock [he means himself] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), and “Behold, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
So let us not lose heart, even in these last, troubled times. Let us not forsake the ship of the Church, thinking it will soon sink. We would eternally regret our decision, for outside this ship, there is no salvation, just as there was no rescue for those who were not aboard Noah’s Ark. As that Ark smoothly navigated through the flood and finally came to rest, safe and sound on Mount Ararat, so too will the ship of the Church pass through the world’s stormy sea and finally rest on the eternal mountains of divine grace. Then we who have remained true in the faith will have our turn to cry out, full of amazement, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” And we will have all of eternity to rejoice in the answer to that question.
Dearest Jesus, help me in my unbelief, strengthen my faith in these troubling times, and keep me safe in Thy ship the Church until I reach the shores of eternal life. Amen.