Full St. Nick's News for September 20, 2023 Dear friends, I want to take time…
I have been thinking a lot about community, faith, and risk taking lately. I am assuming these things are on my mind given that: 1) we were in Australia missing you all – our faith community, 2) we were connecting with friends and family we either haven’t seen in years or (for Ben, Patrick, and I) we were meeting for the first time, and 3) we had experiences in Australia that took us out of our norm and stretched us to be more loving, thoughtful, and adventurous.
Our last couple of days in Australia we visited Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is both a beach and a suburb community located near Sydney. It is one of the most visited tourist sites, drawing approximately 2.7 million visitors a year. Knowing this, I should not have been surprised with how busy the beach was even in the middle of winter there. Tons of people gathering in cafes, surfing the waves, swimming in the ocean, playing, working out, or just chilling on the beach. Did I mention – it’s winter! Winter in Sydney is quite pleasant – it was 58 degrees on the sand.
While spending time on the beach, I watched a group of people take a lesson on how to surf. I was fascinated watching the group of five learn how to paddle out, wait for waves, pop-up, and watch out for one another in the water. I sat there watching in awe, totally impressed with the bravery of these beginners. But I also wondered if they were aware of the dangers of Bondi?
Did they know Bondi (and Australia in general) is known for its rip currents, and at least 21 lives are lost each year in Australia due to rip currents? Did they know that the shark nets set out in the water don’t cover the whole beach? Did they know that Bondi is home to the lethal Blue Box Jellyfish and the harmless, but still bothersome, bluebottle jellyfish? Did they know surfing is difficult and they will be knocked down as beginners more than stand at first? What is it in their make-up, in their being that makes them want to risk trying something new?
I imagine the challenge of conquering something new was part of the desire to surf. I also imagine the appeal of surfing is that you are drawn to being part of something bigger than yourself… The ocean. How majestic and humbling to sit and wait for the right wave, to patiently watch and feel the rhythm of the ocean, to attempt to stand up and ride a wave that could knock you over with hundreds or thousands of pounds of force depending on the height and length of the wave. I imagine having a blissful and heavenly moment where you are standing on your board and feel at one with the ocean and her waves gives one an adrenaline rush like no other…
As I sat there watching and wondering, I was reminded of why I love church planting and being with you all at St. Nicholas. There is a great challenge and a great joy in submitting oneself to a force that is so much bigger than ourselves. We, of course, call this force God in Christ Jesus. The point of creating a new community of faith is to be part of God’s work already in the world and to come together (like brand new surfers) to learn how to navigate the risks of life.
We are called to learn how to surf through our life upon tumultuous waves of hurt and disappointment, fear and frustration, as well as more peaceful waves of joy, hope, and love. We are called to come together as a group of learners gaining new skills in how to live out our faith lives. We are called to join together to learn in community and trust that through our time together we will be forever connected to one another, the world, and to God through the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
I was able to ask one of the surfers how they felt after their surfing lesson. They shared a newfound love for the discipline and shared that it was totally exhilarating. I totally get that! Planting, nurturing, and cultivating St. Nicholas with you is totally exhilarating! We are not simply body surfing or swimming lazily along in a calm pool of water. We are in the ocean riding the waves – sometimes standing and sometimes getting knocked down. But always learning and always risking!
I trust this new program year will bless us with opportunities to risk and learn. I also trust this year will give us ample opportunities to share God’s unconditional love and share our faith. But we can talk more about that on Sunday when Jeremy and I see you at Church!
God’s Peace, Love, and Blessings,