We love Juneau! My wife Karen and I moved to Juneau last November, and I began my new ministry at Chapel by the Lake as senior pastor just after Thanksgiving. To be honest, Juneau felt like a ghost town for those first few months. Now, as things open up and more people gather, we’re getting to know and love Juneau more and more.
We moved here from Florida, and my last church was in the Florida Keys. We loved the Keys too. We enjoyed the tropical water, sunny days and great fishing. However, this time of year a heavy cloud of tension always descended — hurricane season.
Hurricanes are a reality of life for everyone who lives near southern waters. The question was never if we’d get a storm, but when we were getting a storm. June was preparation month: gather lots of water and batteries, prep your house and yard, and never miss the extended weather forecast.
We lived a nervous life from June until the middle of fall.
Jesus spoke often about storms and even endured a few of his own. He calmed storms, slept through a storm, walked on water in the middle of a storm and talked about storms. His most famous sermon is called the Sermon on the Mount, and in it is found many of his best-known teachings. He ended his Sermon on the Mount with a parable about two builders who endured a storm, found in Matthew 7:24-27.
The first builder built his house on rock. The rains came, the wind blew, the floodwaters rose yet the house stood firm. It sounds just like a hurricane to me. The second builder built his house on sand. The rains came, the wind blew, the floodwaters rose and the house collapsed. Jesus even elaborated saying “and great was its collapse.”
In the parable, Jesus used rock as a metaphor for his word. According to Jesus, hearing and obeying his word was like building on rock. Hearing his word but not obeying was like building on sand. Pretty simple to understand (as were many of Jesus’ parables.) Obey Jesus’ word and you will survive. I find this comforting because it contains a promise: obey me and you will make it!
There is something else I find comforting in this parable. Both builders encountered a storm. Sometimes we hear a message like “trust in Jesus and he’ll make everything easy, simple, organized, manageable” or some other pithy promise. Yet my own walk as a follow of Jesus has been anything but easy, simple, organized or manageable. I’ve been through too many storms for my liking, and I know many followers of Jesus who share a similar experience.
Jesus did not promise that obeying his word would somehow exclude us from storms. In fact, he promised the opposite. He said following him would require sacrifice, suffering and may lead to persecution. Yet his promises stand: you will endure; you will be with me in paradise; remain in me and I will remain I you; I have overcome the world.
Storms come in all shapes and sizes. There are family storms, workplace storms, school storms, financial storms, health storms, emotional storms and spiritual storms. What they have in common is an ability to create chaos, confusion and destruction.
My new friends, the question is not if storms will come, but when they come, will you still be standing when the clouds disperse? Storms will come, and I think many of us have already had our fair share of storms. The good news is that lives anchored in Jesus’s words endure even the toughest of storms.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”
— Jesus (John 16:33)
• The Rev. Tim Harrison is senior pastor at Chapel by the Lake. He and his wife Karen (also an ordained pastor) have been in ministry together for over 30 years. They served Presbyterian churches in Florida, Washington, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
“Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.