Church is important to me, as anyone who knows me can guess. Seems like I am always here.
Some people think that they don’t need to come to church to be close to God. They say that they feel close to God in lots of other places. I’m not here to argue that point – I’ve done that enough time with my own brother. Because I have found that I feel close to God other places too – especially out in nature.
Particularly the beach. I am a beach collector – not looking down collecting sea glass or shells – but looking up and out across the waves, the sun and the sky. Looking out across the vastness of the ocean reminds me of God’s vastness and ever-presence.
On time I was going down to the beach on Bailey Island, where my folks had a summer home, and I began to think about the shoreline. I noticed how as you approached the beach the footpath changed. Further away from the water, you had to climb over big boulders and ragged chunks of rock that had broken off of the ledges. As I got closer to the water, the size of the rocks got smaller and rounder, and easier to climb over. When I got down to the place where the water met the shore, the pebbles underfoot were small and smooth, and eventually turned into sand. Now as scientists, we know that the action of the waves constantly knocking the stones together and the water rubbing over them has worn away all the rough edges.
I began to realize that the ocean is like God in our lives. The further away we are from God, the harder life can be to negotiate. But as we draw nearer, we realize that God had smoothed away the sharp edges and obstacles, and made it easier to move closer to God. And sometimes when things are feeling pretty rough, it helps to think about that.
So one of the things that I keep on my bedside table (and my desk when I was working) is a rock. All round and smooth from the action of the ocean. When I get overwhelmed or frustrated, sad or alone, I just pick up the rock and remember that God is always there helping me over the rough spots in life.
I know that often the person doing the children’s story in church will give the children something to take home with them to help remember the story. But it is very rare when the adults get something to take home from church other than the thoughts and ideas we gain from worship. But today is different. Today I invite you to come up when the service is ended and take home a rock to help you remember that God is always close by, loving and helping you whenever you need it.