This Too Shall Pass

Sorry I am so late in posting this week!  I actually really wanted to get this up on Sunday because the weather was so awful and we had so many people out of church, but I had some technical difficulties (ie I accidentally left my laptop at church and couldn’t figure out how to post from my iPad).  I hope it will be worth the wait!

It seems like the weather is crazy all over the country right now.  Ice down south?  Snow in Texas?  And New Englanders … hang in there!  Spring WILL come, I promise!  xoxo

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 22, 2015

Genesis 9:8-17
Mark 1:9-15

This Too Shall Pass

Raise your hand if you are sick and tired of winter.

Furiously waves hand.

So here is a little “behind the scenes” of what has been going on at the church lately.

Two weeks ago someone noticed water on the floor in Fellowship Hall during family game night and we traced it back to a window that was leaking because of an ice dam that had formed on the roof.

Last week we had a crew come to the church to try to remove some of the big snow piles that are taking away parking and creating visibility problems in the village. Our wellhead was damaged during this process and we did not have water at the church for several hours.

Earlier this week, Ray and I were trying to get some ice melt up into the ice dams when we noticed water coming into the door of the sanctuary that leads to the hallway. We traced the source back to the skylight and 30 minutes later, I was crawling through the organ pipes to make sure there was no water up there.

Later that evening I was in my office preparing for our Ash Wednesday service when I heard Todd (our church sexton, who I did not even realize was in the building) come running down the hall yelling, “We sprung a leak!” I did not know what else to do except get up from my desk and run after him, so that is what I did and eventually we both ended up in the women’s bathroom upstairs where a hose had broken on the sink and water was spraying in every possible direction.

Eventually Todd got the water shut off, but then we started to worry about water leaking down into the classroom below the bathroom. So we went downstairs to check – and sadly could hear the water pouring into the classroom long before we actually go to it to see it.

The next morning I took a deep breath and came in around 8 am. The church was quiet and I was actually enjoying the calmness of the morning so much that I left the lights off so I just could sit and do my work in peace.

Five minutes later I heard footsteps coming down the hall and one of the Head Start teachers poked her head into my dark office and said, “I am so sorry to bother you, but there’s water coming into the youth group room!”

At that point I was not sure if I was supposed to laugh or cry.

As I was sitting in my office that night trying to put together this week’s worship bulletin, I could hear poor Todd down in the classrooms with his wet-dry vac trying to clean up all the water. Not remembering off the top of my head what I would be preaching on, I opened up the shared document that Jordan and I use for worship planning and looked up this morning’s scriptures.

And after dealing with water coming into my church for the better part of the past 2+ weeks, I could not help but laugh when I saw that my scriptures for this morning included the passage from Genesis that picks up right after the floodwaters had subsided and God was making a covenant with Noah.

We heard two scripture readings this morning. The first was this story in Genesis where the floodwaters – the floodwaters that had forced Noah, his family and the animals of the earth to take refuge on the ark – subsided, revealing a rainbow in the sky and covenant with God.

I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you. [1]

God did not just make this covenant with Noah; God made this covenant with all of creation, including the generations upon generations that would come after him.

And that includes us.

Even in the midst of our crazy lives – and this never-ending winter – God promises to uphold this covenant with us; protecting us when we are in trouble, comforting us when we are scared, loving us when we feel alone, healing us when we feel sick and giving us wisdom when we feel lost.

God made this promise thousands of years ago and God makes this promise today.

Our Gospel reading comes from the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Immediately after Jesus was baptized, he was driven out into the wilderness for 40 days. We read this text on the first Sunday of Lent, remembering why the season of Lent – which is a penitential season leading up to Easter – lasts for 40 days.

We reflect on Jesus’ time in the wilderness and think about the times in our lives when we, too, are out in the wilderness; when we fall victim to temptation, when we feel overwhelmed and scared, when we fall short, when we are wandering and lost and when we are so desperately searching for resurrection in our lives.

As I reflected on both of these passages, I was reminded of two things that my faith teaches me and assures me.

The first thing that I was reminded of was – as my mother always used to say – “This too shall pass.” The storm came to an end; the floodwaters subsided and Noah and his family returned to the land. After 40 days, Jesus left the wilderness; he went to Galilee and proclaimed the good news of God.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” [2]

I was in a meeting with several of my clergy colleagues this week and as we were swapping snow-related building and church programming issues, we reminded ourselves of the countless stories in the bible where a person or a group of people faced a significant challenge – and that challenge eventually came to an end.

This too shall pass – scripture assures us that it always does. Floods, time in the wilderness, wandering in the desert, exiles, being stuck in the belly of a whale, illnesses, plagues, jail time and even death – all of these things came to an end. Scripture may leave us with a lot of questions, but it does not leave us with any loose ends; the covenant that God made with Noah remained strong throughout the bible and I firmly believe that it remains strong with us in our lives today.

So whether you are frustrated by a long and hard winter or you are feeling the weight of something else in your life, remember today that this too shall pass.

This is a promise made by scripture.

Here is the second thing that I remembered about our blessed faith in my reading of these scriptures: God is always with us.

I know that sometimes this is hard for us to visualize in our own lives, but think about how easy it is to identify in these particular scriptures. First God appeared to Noah and not only proclaimed God’s covenant with him, but then offered him this exquisite sign – a beautiful rainbow in the sky – to remind him and all of us of this covenant and of God’s promise.

This scripture from the gospel of Mark records that was Jesus was not alone in the wilderness, either.

He was in the wilderness forty day, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. [3]

And the angels waited on him.

So often we think about Jesus’ time in the wilderness and we think about his temptation and Satan and the wild beasts that surrounded him. But we forget that even in the midst of all of that, the angels were still with him. He was not alone.

And neither are we.

Our faith does not promise us an easy life, but it does assure us that we will never walk through life alone. Whatever challenges we face, whatever heartache we feel and whatever tragedies we encounter, God is always with us. In the same way that God appeared to Noah on the ark and in the same God sent angels to be with Jesus in the wilderness, God is with us in our lives. This is a promise that has never and will never be broken.

We have entered the Lenten season, the 40 days (not including Sundays, if you are checking my math) before Easter. And I think it is really important for us – especially in the midst of this bleak winter – to really allow ourselves to experience this season. We are people of the resurrection; we live out our faith knowing that God’s love triumphed in a victory over the grave, that Christ rose from the dead and that God’s promises never fail.

Life is not always going to be easy. We will face challenges, we will struggle and we will grieve.

But we will also heal. This is God’s promise to us.

I came in yesterday and some of our pipes were frozen. And when I woke up this morning and the forecasted rain had turned to snow. But the winter that we are experiencing is actually a really good metaphor for the other challenges we face in our lives. There are things in our lives that we cannot control. These are things that frustrate us. There are things in our lives that cause our hearts to break, that give us anxiety in and that we want so desperately to end.

But they will end.

Trust that the hard times will pass. And remember in the midst of them that God is with you.

Always.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

***

[1] Genesis 9:9-10, NRSV
[2] Mark 1:15, NRSV
[3] Mark 1:13, NRSV

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