When Nature Needs a Recall
Mark 4.35-41 - the Stilling of the Storm
This week, I watched on YouTube.com some of the weather reports from April 27 – the night of the big tornados that moved across the Southeast. Those storms did some damage in Tennessee; in Alabama they did enormous damage with over 200 people killed. According to that weather report I saw, one of the tornados touched down and traveled across Alabama for 181 miles. We had our own weather event in East Tennessee – not as much destruction or loss of life, but frightening and very disruptive for many of us. Actually, I did not watch the weather and the news on that night; our power was out throughout much of that week.
As the recovery moves slowly forward, I am beginning to realize how emotionally and spiritually draining recovery has become. Like most folks, we have insurance, and the insurance folks have been responsive and respectful. As a result, we do not need FEMA to rescue us; they can focus on people with much bigger losses than ours.
As our recovery gets underway, the news on TV has turned to the flooding along the Mississippi River. People there will soon be starting their own clean up -- and some will ask for help.
That week of storms was different from other weeks and other storms. Previously, when storms came, they tore through someone else’s neighborhood. Previously, when storms came, they only did a little damage. This time the damage was real and the recovery will take months. I expect that I am not alone in being weary of the hassle of cleaning up and putting life back together. I expect I am not alone in hoping to hear a Word from God for those of us wearied by cleaning up from the storms.
[I.] Where is God when the storm breaks over our homes? And who is God when grace and kindness are obliterated by the flood washing lives away, by the hail pounding against our windows, and by the tornado tearing the roofs from over our heads? These are questions we are not good at asking. Therefore, most of us do not ask them until the storms actually descend upon us and drive us against the rusty barbs of these questions.
[WEATHER CHANNEL] The Weather Channel has a regular feature called “Storm Stories” – a segment which shows us the amazing things which happen when storms hit. The stories tell how weather changed history or how certain people escaped death and injury. Oddly, these storm stories focus on the science of the storm or the human drama that unfolded; they never ask, “What does the storm tell us about God?” We wonder: Is this the world God created or are some parts of creation misbehaving? Does God intend the world to be a gift of wonders or a fearsome hazard? Should Nature be recalled for safety reasons?
People do wonder. Human beings are always trying to make sense of the events unfolding around us. People wonder what storms and events say to us about God. And when the clean up takes longer and imposes a greater cost on us than we can bear, we wonder whether God is even with us.
In the Stilling of the Storm from Mark 4, we find the disciples more than ready to question the purposes of God. When the storm broke over the little boat, they woke Jesus, who was asleep in the stern of the boat. In their desperation, they cried out to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we perish?"
They were certainly not afraid to ask of God. I think Mark tells this story with a twinkle in his eye, because he knows that the disciples do not know – at least, not at this point – that Jesus is God. Still, they know that he is their leader; they know that he is powerful. This is enough; so they awaken him and confront him with their desperation.
B. [APPLIC:] When have you, like the disciples wanted to awaken Jesus to see the desperate situation that was breaking over you? When have you been driven to your wits’ end by challenges that you feared you could not handle? When have you stood before challenges that were greater than your strength?
II. Notice that the storm came, as our storms came, while the disciples were going about their daily work. No, better than that, they were traveling with Jesus. They didn't do anything bad or stupid to deserve this storm.
A. Storms come to us as well
1. Without warning,
2. While we are busy with the business of our day.
3. While we are going out of our way to do that which is definitely Christian.
4. Storms fall on us--and on all people. As Jesus said, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust."
B. Storms take many forms:
1. Wind and rain.
2. Illness or terrible injury.
3. A death in the family.
4. Sometimes storms come as hard decisions we have to make
--tough love when the most loving thing to say is "No."
-- Helping a loved-one leave their home and move to a nursing home.
It does not matter who we are or how carefully we plan our steps and our lives. Storms come. They shake us to our foundation. Our week of storms made us realize that not one of us is immune.
C. Who is this God that builds a world which is filled with both wonders and dangers? What does this tell us about God? Who is this God who speaks so that the wind and the waves obey? Who is this God who takes flesh in Jesus of Nazareth?
V. Who is this God? And what does the power of Creation teach us about our God?
1. We believe that God is the Creator who created the world out of nothing. Thus, God is the god of limitless power over the forces of nature. The God who created the wind and taught it to blow must surely have the power to command the wind and the storm.
2. We believe that God is the Creator who created the world by calling order out of the chaos of darkness and water before the beginning of time. The God who can call the primordial chaos into the marvelous order of creation has the power to still the storm with a command. The God who can create humankind from the mud of a riverbank still has the power to shape and heal human lives.
Who is this God? The question that the storms raise about the nature of God come from the conviction that God created all things. And if God has the power to call the world into being and the imagination to dream the complexities of life, then why does not God use such power to keep the world under control? Storms are surely part of nature, but couldn’t God have placed limits on nature just as God gave powers to nature?
3. Who is God? We believe that God is love and that the primary way God works in the lives of all creatures great and small is through love.
Through love God made us wonderfully complex and capable.
Through love God made us for loving one another and God in response.
Through love God refused to give up on humankind when sin entered the world.
Through love God took human flesh and walked among us in the man Jesus that he might share our world.
Two new boys came to Sunday School one day. To register them, the teacher had to ask their ages and birthdates. The bolder of the two said, “We’re both seven. My birthday is April 8, and my brother’s birthday is April 20.”
“But that’s impossible!” said the teacher.
“No, it’s not,” answered the quieter brother. “One of us is adopted.”
“Which one?” asked the Sunday School teacher before she could stop herself.
The boys looked at each other and smiled, and the bolder one said, “We asked our Mom awhile back, but she just said she loved us both and couldn’t remember any more which one of us was adopted.”
The scripture says the same of God: By faith in Christ we have been adopted –daughters and sons of God. As fully adopted and accepted children, we share the same inheritance as the only begotten Son, Jesus. This is a beloved picture of God – the God of deep and thoughtful love. So, if this is the love of God, then how does a God of such love allow the storms that destroy and injure? Who is God when storms come?
These three pictures of God and the way God deals with destruction in the Creation are each cherished as true of God. And yet, each one fails to provide a satisfying picture of the God who created the earth and loves the earth yet stands by when suffering comes.
4. Dr. Daniel Migliore, in his book, Faith Seeking Understanding, suggests that we are looking in the wrong place. To understand this we should look to Jesus. In Jesus…
God’s eternal being-in-love reaches out to the world. Far from being aloof, apathetic, and immutable, God freely becomes vulnerable out of faithful love for the world. The destructiveness of evil in creation can be overcome not by divine fiat but only by a costly history of divine love in which the suffering of the world is really experienced and overcome by God (3).
The crucial point is that God does not deal with suffering in the world through God’s almighty-ness but by the power of love at work in the ministry, cross, and resurrection of Jesus.
The power of the triune God is not raw omnipotence but the power of suffering, liberating, reconciling love. An emphasis on God as Trinity gives providence a different face. The God who creates and preserves the world is not a despotic ruler but “our Father in heaven;” not a distant God but a God who becomes one of us and accompanies us as the incarnate, crucified, risen Lord; not an ineffective God but one who rules all things by Word and Sprit rather than by the power of coercion (4).
Too often, we look for a God who will arrive in our times of need like the Calvary -- riding in on horses, blowing the trumpet, calling the troops to battle, guns blazing – we are looking for a god who does not look like Jesus. And, God always looks like Jesus.
Jesus is God now in human flesh:
+Sharing our common life,
+Facing the temptations to which we are prone,
+Enjoying accomplishments and running into obstacles – as we all do.
+Riding in the boat with us when the storm breaks out.
Jesus is God loving so deeply that he will go to the cross for the world which he loves.
+Loving so deeply that he will serve the bread and cup to the one who will betray him.
+Loving so deeply that he will wash the feet of the one who will deny and abandon him.
+Gathering up into his life, death and resurrection all that is human life so that life might be redeemed in his life.
[CONCL:] Where is God when storms come? And what does our God look like? The God of heaven and earth looks like Jesus:
+sharing our life, storms and all;
+watching the storm in wonder and apprehension;
+walking beside us for as long as the clean up might take.
This is who God is when storms come.
3. Migliore, Daniel. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, p. 226.
4. ibid. p. 228.