Creation: Storm Sunday

Luke 8:22-25I wonder if you have noticed a recent phenomenon: the weather has changed and expanded my vocabulary.  We used to joke, Dave and I, about folks who would make inane weather comments that sounded like “a lot of weather we’re having…” because other than the seasons, the weather was the weather.  Some winters were harsher than others, some springs wetter, but that was to be expected, right? Now I’m not so sure. When words and terms like bombogenesis, polar vortex, derecho, microburst, gustnado, haboob, supercell, thundersnow, fire tornados, and so forth are used to describe what’s happening weatherwise, there’s a sense that something is different.  Is it that we are just being more precise with our language or that we actually know more details about what’s happening around us? Perhaps both. One thing is for sure, knowing that one of these weather events –and I picked only storm-related words in honor of today’s theme– we now know to prepare for them.  Weather reporters and storm chasers have achieved a new respect because so much of our lives depends on the information they provide.  I am still amazed how well the forecasters have become at interpreting conditions. Just this week one day was perfectly sunny and the next, boom! The nor’easter had us in its grip. That is essentially what is happening in the gospel today.  Jesus and the disciples set out on a boat in Galilee. No significant weather is reported until a storm abruptly changes everything.  They go from sailing so smoothly that Jesus falls asleep, to a storm so rough that they begin sinking.  In this extreme weather event, everyone is in a panic.  Whatever they were contemplating, whatever plans they had for that day or any other, it all will be wiped out by the storm. Seemingly at the last minute, or maybe because it’s so improbable that he’s still sleeping, they wake Jesus up.  Jesus who is unperturbed by the storm. Jesus, who seems to take no more than two seconds to set things in order, as if he were blowing out a candle. Jesus who also includes the disciples in the same rebuke: “where is your faith?”Storm Sunday invites us to think and reflect not  about a feature or creature of nature, but about the phenomena encompassed by the words ‘weather’ and ‘climate.’ there is something compelling when we think about them, because for all our efforts, we simply can’t control the weather.  At least not to our advantage.  We can, however, contribute to climate change –and that almost always to our disadvantage. In other words, we can’t make it stop raining, but our actions can impact the quality and/or quantity of rain in a particular area.When it comes to storms, it seems that something has happened to the quality and quantity of storms of all kinds –they have become more frequent and more extreme. My most recent encounter with a weird strange storm and its aftermath happened this past summer in Mexico.  Maybe you saw the reports about it. It was a freak overnight hailstorm that dumped about two feet of hail in an area of about 8 city blocks.  The hail almost filled an overpass.  It looked like snow.  We were incredulous as we passed through the area in the morning.  Since we didn’t know about it, we got caught in the traffic. The hail had stripped the trees, it damaged homes and vehicles. There were some injuries because people there aren’t used to navigating mounds of ice. It was gone in less than 48 hours because the weather in the rest of the city was around 80 degrees.  I don’t know if there’s a word yet for freak hailstorms like this. Here is what the storm does for us: it sharpens our focus. If we know about it in advance, we prepare.  If it overwhelms us or we’re caught in it by surprise, we respond to it with all we have: from bailing water to calling on the Almighty to save us.  But once it starts, the one thing we can’t do is control it.“What is a storm? Is it a test, a challenge, an obstacle? You never really understand a storm until you are in one, but the other side of the storm, that is another thing altogether. The storm is going to cost you something, there is no getting around it. Whether it gives something back is entirely up to you.” (author Rick Delmonico, The Philosophy of Fractals). Whether a storm gives something back is entirely up to us, may be a different way of asking, “Where is your faith?”  we may want the wind and the water to obey us, and in many ways they do, harnessed for agriculture and commerce, but we also need to think about how that can change the landscape of the earth so drastically that extreme storms are the result.  As a dimension of our faith, I’d like to think of a storm as an exclamation point in the language of nature. Something that brings us to an arresting stop forcing us to deal with it.  A storm does not let us evade our responsibility of being stewards of creation. It can  help us prioritize, organize, be aware, change.    Think about the people in Paradise, California who lived through the hellish firestorms last year.  Think of the people in the ruined paradise of the Bahamas.  What do you think their priorities are like now?We can’t sit placidly in the boat hoping the consequences of our actions are all going to float away.  We have to respond, as we would in a crisis. We are not called to conquer storms, but neither are we called to create or augment them. Where is your faith? Jesus asks.  Are we expecting him to bail us out? Are we hoping that the Second Coming is near, so we won’t have to worry about what happens to our planet? Are we thinking, this is just how nature is; it will heal?  Where is our faith in the face of climate change? Again, storms may be the exclamation point in an existing weather pattern, but woe to us if they become regular extreme weather events.  Nature may heal itself in some form or another, but humanity may not be able to survive it.  Could it be that earth’s destiny is to become barren and brittle like Mars or super toxic and endlessly stormy like Jupiter and Saturn? Where is our faith? That question is OUR wake-up call. May the storm not find us asleep in the boat. In Jesus’ name. Amen. photo credit: Getty photos

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