I recently drove from Chicagoland to assist in flood-threatened Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You may remember that Cedar Rapids was inundated by a devastating flood in 2008, and since then both city officials and residents have kept a careful watch on the Cedar River, which runs through the downtown. They are hoping and praying they never have a repeat flood. This time was shaping up to pose a threat.
When I arrived in town and drove across the river that divides the town, I saw how high the fast-flowing water reached—barely underneath the lower bridges. Driving to Bethany Lutheran Church, I met with Ronda Anderson, the church’s parish nurse, who graciously welcomed me and briefed me on the dangerous threat (the river hit flood stage at 16 feet, and was now at 22 feet!).
I then met with Bethany Pastor Michael Erickson, who is part of the LCMS Iowa East District Disaster Team, and he and I drove downtown to assess the situation and check the status of a business owned by one of his members. I helped escort him through the security perimeter law enforcement officers had set up (giving one of our Peace Officer Ministries’ Bibles to a grateful state trooper in the process), and we headed down to the river. We found that his member’s business was not flooded (with only some minor flooding in the basement being pumped out), and then proceeded to the riverbank area.
There we found city workers standing watch over the river. I say “over” as a figure of speech, because in fact I could see that the river was well above its banks, and was being held back only by a line of “Hesco bastions.” (A Hesco barrier, made from individual bastions, is a temporary levee made of collapsible wire mesh containers lined with heavy duty fabric and filled with sand, in this case placed along 10 miles of the Cedar River.) The water was almost at eye level! If the Hesco levee broke, the downtown would flood and we would start swimming.
“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” is an expression you may have heard, and in this case it was quite literally true. By God’s grace Cedar Rapids was spared the worst. We kept watch and the Hesco barriers held.
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” Being prepared often begins with the question, “What if…?” That’s a question I’ve often asked in my professional life, first as a law enforcement officer and then as a chaplain. In the Bible, Jesus talks about being spiritually prepared for His return:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-36).
As I write this, I am keeping watch on Hurricane Matthew, and am making preparations to go if needed. Are you keeping watch? Are you prepared for the floods and hurricanes of life, both material and spiritual? Are you ready for Christ’s return? Listen to common sense. Listen to life. Listen to the Lord: “Watch!”