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The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, NY


Scott Black Johnston: The Stormy Blast

November 18, 2012

As some of you know, my favorite hymn writer is Isaac Watts.  A gifted English poet and musician, Watts penned such Christian standards as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and "Joy to the World."

Watts' hymns have shaped my faith.  While his many compositions differ in pitch and tone, they always-in provocative and beautiful ways-invite me into the presence of God.

Recently, the slice of Watts' repertoire that has been looping through my head is "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past."  It begins with a verse that-in tough times-always manages to ground me:

Our God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!

Nearly three weeks ago, New York and New Jersey were hit by a "stormy blast" unparalleled for this part of the country.  By the time Hurricane Sandy left, a good portion of this city was in the dark.  People (many of them seniors) were stranded on high floors of apartment buildings with no power and no water.  Countless others were trapped in neighborhoods crisscrossed with fallen trees and power lines.  Flood waters filled basements and tunnels and living rooms.  Fire jumped from house to house in Queens.  It was-and it remains in many places-bad.

At the height of the storm, my son, Oliver and I were listening to the wind shake our windows.  In a quiet voice, he said, "I'm scared Daddy."  "Me too," I replied.  "But," Ollie asked, "God's got us, right?"  "Yep," I said, smiling in the dark, "God's got us!"

Ollie probably didn't know it, but he was expressing a core Christian conviction.  This is the faith that fuels Watts' famous hymn.  It is also the sacred confidence Paul expresses in his letter to the Romans:

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8: 38-39

At our boldest best, we believe that no matter what; come what may; (or as Randy Weber puts it "come hell or high water"), God's got us.  God is our source of life and hope now, and-when our time on earth is done-God is our eternal home.

Taken with permission and adapted from Scott's blog, "Sharp About Your Prayers."


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