Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In the Midst of the Storm: See Luke 8:22-25

I think we ought to be reminded as we see the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and beyond to look to God in multiple ways. First and foremost, not that I am saying that this was (or was not, for that matter) an act of judgment by God, but that as an expression of God's power and sovereignty over natural forces it should give us pause in our considerations of Him. As per the Scripture reference above, we know that God is ultimately in control of all things, including hurricanes. Why does He permit them to happen? That I cannot answer. We know that God is good, and all powerful, but that bad things still happen. My tendency is answer that human freedom resulted in the fallen world, and now we corporately reap the consequences of that, namely in this instance, in the form of really bad weather. If we are free, and using that freedom to reject God, than we are rightfully experiencing an existence that is free of God and His protection (at times, anyway) But I digress...the Question of Evil will not be answered by me today. Our lot is to overcome that which happens be it good or bad, following our Lord regardless of our circumstance. Praying, serving, and giving up our lives for others. He is Lord over the Storm, and He does indeed care for us, as Christ so directly showed the Disciples that evening in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. My concern is more pastoral. If this storm, a creaturely thing, a thing which is less than God in power can bring this nation to a standstill, threaten it at its economic core, and destroy a vast swath of its territory, we ought to meditate upon His power and sovereignty,and be thankful for His altogether good and loving nature. Certainly, a being that was all-powerful, but not completely good would bring about much greater unpleasantness than this mere hurricane! As we contemplate the social, economic, familial, and spiritual implications of this event, the fleeting and contingent nature of all self-identities, safety nets, organizations and powers not rooted in God should become apparent. Will our nation fall on account of this? Of course not, or rather, I should hope not. However, as the most powerful nation on the face of planet...ever, we are tempted to trust in many things other than God as we revel in our own resplendence. The truth is that long after all the cultures, styles, fashions, worldviews, institutions, and foundations of America/Western Civilization have passed away in full or changed into their next iteration, the Gospel, Jesus Christ, and His Church will still be present. This ought to cause us to grapple with the questions of where our identities are founded. Am I a disciple and follower of Christ first, and everything else ('American' or 'Republican' or 'Academic' or "Charismatic" or "Reform") secondarily? Is my citizenship in the final analysis in this nation, or in God's coming and eternal Kingdom? This display of natures destructiveness is an illustration of God's power to judge or bless serves to (amongst other things) relativize us. By it we are 'put in our place' so to speak. It demonstrates in tangible ways what has really been the case all along: we are contingent, finite beings. We long for permanence, for that which is larger than ourselves. We want to be part of something bigger than us, but to not lose our individuality. To be 'persons-in-community.' And rightfully so! We build institutions, structures, even nations. These are certainly not bad, but as with our very selves, they are contingent and finite also. To find permanence and meaning in them is to find it in the wrong place; because ultimately they cannot provide it. As co-Creators with God, we give these structures of meaning/identity/permanence their value and traction inasmuch as we relate them to God through our own relationship with Him. Not vice-versa. All that to say, we are reminded by this tragedy of the fleeting nature of our own existence and our sources of personal and corporate meaning when they are disconnected from God. Thanks be to God however, that the inverse is also true! When our lives and institutions/sources of identity are properly related to God (recognizing His Lordship, and rightful ultimacy to them) they have eternal and appropriately ordered meaning! On a practial note, the Biblical enjoinder once again is simple: serve and contribute practically where possible, and most importantly to pray. Finally a word of encouragement: The Lord cares for us, and we can lean on Him in all things. The Disciples probably had a seaworthy vessel, moreover they were experienced fisherman, but rather than relying on either their boat or themselves, it was to Jesus they went in the Storm. We should be so wise...


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