A wooden cross that survived the devastating Camp Fire in Paradise, California, has become a symbol of hope overcoming tragedy.
Fox News reported that the November blaze destroyed approximately 95 percent of the northern California community, located approximately 90 miles north of Sacramento.
Eighty-five people died as a result of the wildfires to strike California last month.
Among the buildings taken by the fire was the 54-year-old Our Savior Lutheran Church and its parsonage where Pastor Brandon Merrick, his wife and their two children lived.
Two days after the fire, the pastor posted a picture of the church grounds, showing a wooden cross standing amidst the fire.
“I hate this picture. However, I also love this picture,” Merrick wrote on Facebook. “Over the past 48 hours I have seen both the worst this world has to offer and best things found in this world. I have been scared for my life and lifted to a place only God can reach.”
He explained, “For me, this picture is not just a heartbreaking reminder of what can happen to the things and people of this world, this is our one true hope in the midst of tragedy that cannot be destroyed by anything.”
“God is with us,” Merrick continued. “God is holding you right now as you read this note and He wants nothing more than for you to see Him through the cross where He draws us to the only place His mercy and forgiveness are found. In this picture I understand how in the cross we see both the ultimate consequence of our sin in death and the new life we have with Jesus.”
The pastor assured his congregation though the future is uncertain, God will be with them wherever they go and through whatever life brings.
In an interview with Fox News, Merrick said, “I told our church I really hope that that picture can be used as the picture for the fire, because, as the church, everything that man builds with our hands is perishable, but what God does for us through the cross is imperishable and cannot be taken away or burned up.”
The preacher’s observation appeared to be a reference to the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth in the first century A.D.
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building,” Paul wrote. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The apostle went on to explain that God will reward each believer in Christ’s work, based on whether it survives having been tested by fire at the end of the age.
“If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward,” Paul wrote. “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
KRCR-TV reported that despite losing its building, the Our Savior Lutheran Church congregation survives.
It is now meeting in nearby Chico, holding its own service at the Redeemer Lutheran Church.
Merrick told KRCR-TV that about half of the church’s 130 parishioners now live in Chico and attend the service.
“These are the times when faith really steps up and calls us to not just endure, not just to survive, but to find joy in the little things in life,” the pastor said.
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