by Pastor Polk
Thank God for the Sandbar!
In March of this year I was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to celebrate my 60th birthday with family and friends. We stayed in a hotel on the beach. One morning I got up early as the sun was rising and went for a long walk on the beach. The waves on the ocean were enormous, pounding as they broke with large crashes and huge sprays of white water and foam all around. It was high tide and very windy. The ocean was big, boisterous, strong and inviting. (It was a far cry from the relatively calm waters of Revere beach where I live.) On the way back to the hotel I decided to take a plunge into all that commotion. As I began my walk into the water there was a sudden drop, and the water was up to my waist with little time to recover from each wave now breaking over me. I had to lean into each huge wave to avoid being knocked down. I could have turned around for the safety of dry land, but instead I plowed ahead until I finally dove into each big wave crashing towards me. Dive, swim under water, find my footing, stand up, and catch my breath before the next wave began to roll into me and dive again – over and over. It was grueling and exhausting but exhilarating. Finally, after about eight dives leading me further and further from shore, I regained my footing once more. Suddenly I stepped high on a sand bar and water was only up to my knees. I was safe and steady with a firm foundation despite the roaring, pounding, foaming and spraying waves around me.
I wonder if you’ve had this same kind of experience as if you were plunging through an angry, relentless, strong ocean. I wonder what kinds of tough, exhausting, grueling, and painful experiences you’ve been through or are going through right now. Almost everyone has had such experiences. Any kind of loss produces grief. Any kind of unexpected change may lead to uncertainty or turmoil. Taking on a new challenge may, at times, feel like crashing waves. Broken promises may lead to a loss of balance. Economic uncertainty, social injustice and abuse of power may take your breath away and feel like you are drowning. No matter what the challenging situation it’s easy to lose your footing – and sink.
It was such a relief to step unexpectedly onto that sandbar with violent waves crashing around me. It was a respite and a relief. It was a time to gather up my strength again. It was a chance to center myself. As I wonder what challenges you have faced or are facing, I also wonder about your sandbar. How would you describe what grounds you when waves are crashing about you? How do you identify what brings you peace and stability? What brings you hope and joy? I’d like to share a few of my sandbars: reading to my 4 and 2 year old grandsons followed by bedtime prayers and tucking them in for the night; walking on the beach; reading works by my favorite spiritual teachers; listening to beautiful music; swimming laps in a pool; enjoying a great meal with friends; exploring the world through travel; worshiping with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I can name many sandbars in my life that give me peace, but there is one firm foundation upon which they all rest. That firm foundation is God’s incredible gift of unconditional love experienced through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and with brothers and sisters of faith. Though our time together has been brief, you – the community of the Lutheran Church of the Newtons - are our firm foundation. I am humbled and grateful for your warm welcome, open arms and gracious acceptance of me as your interim pastor. I leave richer in faith because of you. It is so evident God is not just present in you but active and alive. God is inviting and urging you into the future creatively and wonderfully.
I invite you to remember your sandbars or create new ones – those things, people and activities that give you peace and joy and sustain you and hold you up through challenges, pain and difficulty. No matter what, nothing can ever separate us from always landing on the firm foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ.
June 29, 2018
P.S. I will include you in my prayers as you continue the transition to your newly called pastor, and I ask for your prayers as I begin a new call on July 5 as the transitional pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Easton, Massachusetts.