#Beautyfromashes

Last weekend I was in NYC with two long time girlfriends for some R&R.  I woke up early on Sunday morning, as I always do, even on vacation.  Lying in bed, I opened up my email on my phone and looked at an email time stamped at 5:40 am from my church.  Of course my first thought was maybe I was supposed to serve this morning and did not write it on my calendar and was getting some update on the service for the day.  I was briefly upset with myself that I was going to be a “no show” for communion which I try never to do!

Those thoughts came and went within seconds as I opened the email and began to read the news of our church fire.  I had to read the email a couple of times.  My brain was struggling with this.  Our church?  St. Andrew’s? I have read and seen photos of other churches but this can’t possibly have happened to our church! So once my denial subsided and I accepted that yes, this was indeed, our Ministry Center that had gone up in a blaze, I wept quietly and prayed.

The first photos I saw were of flames shooting up into the dark predawn sky.  It was hard to tell how much of the ministry center was engulfed but it did not look good.  In the light of day, this drone shot told the story.  When you look at this, multitudes of thoughts and feelings stirred within me. While our historic church was untouched by the fire, our ministry center is gone.  I thought about my journey at St Andrew’s over the past 15 years.  I flashed through memories of my son going to youth groups and confirmation. I was reminded of my service at the alter reading the word of God and administering communion.  Alpha and bible studies. Prayer I received over the years for myself and my family. Calling to mind my meetings with Steve Wood, my fearless pastor, who saw me through struggles with my daughter’s addiction and my husband’s alcohol abuse.  Moments in time, happy and difficult.  As Christians we are not promised an easy life when we accept Jesus’ invitation. We are called to serve and be uncomfortable some times.  It is with a heart full of the Fruit of the Spirit that make the times we are brought to our knees in discomfort, sadness and pain that make us warriors for the Cross of Christ.

So what I saw next affirmed that for me because what is NOT gone (as you can see) is so much bigger!  The Lord promised to bring beauty from ashes!  Our wooden cross still  stands untouched by the flames.  In my mind’s eye I can see the mighty host of angels surrounding and protecting it.  Perhaps it was so we could “SEE AND BELIEVE” to offer us a sign that we will be fine as a church and as a community of believers.

 

Isaiah 61:3 “To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”

First Peter 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

This week we have been updated continuously.  I am grateful to everyone who has had a hand in the recovery this past week.  The firefighters who were quick to act, our vestry and clergy who are working tirelessly to get us up and running again.  Our congregation who stands ready to lend a hand and a home and anything else when needed.

And now with the cross wrapped like our Lord on the Cross, we live the Easter Story for we will rise as Jesus did on the glorious day!

“The Wonderful Cross”

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

 

 

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