Isaiah 43:1b-2a – Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. (NIV)
"Tell me what your escape routes were," Rev. David Robertson asked his United Church congregation in High River, Alberta, Canada, to begin an impromptu worship service last Sunday. Just over a week earlier, on June 21, 13,000 residents had been evacuated due to a flood.
"How many of you escaped by car or truck?" he began. About half the hands of the church of about 80 people went up. "How many walked out?" he asked as a few more hands went up. "How many of you escaped by front-end loader?" A couple of other hands rose. "Combine?" More hands. "What about a manure spreader?" Laughingly, several more hands moved into the air. Finally, David asked, "What about helicopter?" Amazingly two hands indicated removal by helicopter.
Then David turned to his wife and co-pastor, Rev. Susan Lukey, and asked her to share the amazing story of how she had spent the night of the "flood of a century" in her High River church "beneath the cross of Jesus".
That morning, Rev. Susan had been working with others in her church. When the waters outside grew to the extent that it began to cause real concern, the others made a hasty and safe departure, while Susan tied up some loose ends. By the time she had finished and was prepared to leave, it was too late. The water had quickly become so high that it was no longer possible to open the doors against the rising tide.
A quick call to 911 suggested that if she was safe, she should hunker down and wait until the flood lessened, when it would be safer to move about. As the water seeped through the front doors, Susan found a stepladder and put it against the highest part of the church – the choir loft in the sanctuary, right below the cross of Jesus. As the waters rose, Susan climbed the ladder to a ledge, about three feet wide, on which the cross sits, and there, she settled in for a long night, with food, water, and prayer shawls as her source of physical comfort, but the cross of Jesus, directly about, her spiritual comfort, as the troubled water splashed beneath her.
Susan reported that she was never really afraid. "I thought that the rest of the town was safe and that I would walk out in the morning to my family. I kept reading over Psalm 29 which speaks of God being enthroned over the flood. I still don't totally understand what that means, but it reminded me that God is more powerful than the rising waters."
Psalm 29:3,10 – The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. (NIV)
What a great image, with flood waters raging below, sleeping fearlessly "beneath the cross of Jesus"!
Isaiah speaks on behalf of God when he says:
Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (NIV)
Susan made it safely back to her family the next morning, after discovering that they, along with the rest of the town, had been evacuated. Since then, those words of Isaiah have focused her faith day by day, as they should for all of us.
Prayer: Loving God, as the troubled waters often swirl around us and threaten both our way of living and also life itself, help us to focus on You, on Your love, and on Your peace, for it is those things that get us through the long night. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "How Firm A Foundation" (Lyrics)