19 September 2010
Today is Storm Sunday, the third for this year's Season of Creation liturgical emphasis. With Ocean Sunday, we pondered and celebrated the earth's circulatory system. Fauna Sunday was a time to consider critters of all kinds that depend on humans for their sustenance and health, just as trees, rivers, forests and prairies do—animals are a major aspect of our interdependent world! Next Sunday, the twelfth and last will be Cosmos Sunday. Paralleling the Revised Common Lectionary, the Season of Creation includes a year for Matthew, one for Mark, and then Luke.
It feels as if especially during the five years since Katrina turned the world's eyes and hearts to the city of New Orleans and to the ineptitude of the federal government's response, every time there's a natural disaster media outlets overwhelm us with constant updates about the most recent hurricane, earthquake, oil spill, tornado or assorted "other" weather phenomena that disrupt the sometimes routine days of our lives.
In the reading from the Hebrew Bible, Job [28:21-22] inquires about wisdom, responding with words about some not readily apparent ways of being wise: “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air."
Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Church forms the second pericope or scripture selection for Storm Sunday. At first glance its relevance may seem a stretch, since Paul again is all about the cross of Calvary and again Paul recognizes the paradoxical power of weakness, vulnerability and death, along with servant wisdom found in the cross. Paul trusts the invincibility of life in the overwhelming power of resurrection. In fact, you could say that for Paul the Gospel is death and resurrection!
23we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Major seismic and atmospheric events can cause widespread destruction of all kinds, more often than not disproportionately impacting lives and surroundings of folks with fewer financial and other resources. It's well-known that people living in neighborhoods with more up-to-date infrastructure have better schools and get better coverage from police, fire and politicians. At 7.2 the Easter Day Sierra El Mayor geological event that shook, rattled and rolled Northern Mexico and Southern California was higher on the Richter scale than the 7.0 Haiti quake on 12 January. Alta and Baja California regions still are getting substantial aftershocks, but they warrant no more than a "did you feel that one?" while Haiti remains in chaotic disrepair and there probably never will be an accurate death count or reckoning of total costs. According to today's famous passage from Luke, the disciples "...were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?'
"Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him." Hebrew and Christian worldviews emerged from God's self-revelation within religious contexts in which people believed that far away, distant, unapproachable gods caused natural disasters and disturbances out of their anger and displeasure with humans, along with more-or-less predictably cycles and recycles of the same events. The experience of God's nascent people Israel and later those of the early Church – I'd hope our experience as 21st century Christians, too – with the God who is Creator and Lord of the waves and the winds (the desert, the savanna and the outback, and Lord of history, too...) was distinctly different! This was not a remote deity requiring sacrifice and placation, but a God so in love with creation that in Jesus of Nazareth God chose to live as a human creature. Not only has the endless recurrence of the very same thing stopped in its tracks, this God promises and provides a hope, a future and the reality of resurrection from the dead.
Job asks about wisdom; the apostle Paul tells us about God's wisdom. When the very young John Calvin pondered compiling a systematic theology, he wondered whether to begin with Divinity or with Humanity but finally decided it made no difference, since the outcome of either would be identical. Back in the days of Jesus the Nazarene it was not unusual to be talking with someone who was half mortal, half divine—the offspring of a human and a god. In Jesus Christ we find something more: a Savior, a Lord both completely mortal and completely divine; in Christ Jesus we discover that the fullness of humanity and the fullness of divinity are one and the same! Baptized into his death and resurrection and walking with Jesus in trust, we participate in his humanity and claim his divinity. Martin Franzmann's poetry sings, "Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous, bright with Thine Own Holiness."
A blizzard or flood, tsunami or environmental accident originating oceans and continents away from where we live or a block away from home will affect all of us wherever we are. Because of our intertwined lives, last January's earthquake in Haiti wounded and broke all of us. Each of us can be counted among Deepwater Horizon's victims and survivors.
Will major meteorological events keep on happening? Without a doubt they will. "Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him."
Who are we, the people of God? We are baptized into Jesus Christ, so do the oceans and the breakers obey us? God calls us to be co-creators and faithful stewards of all creation, to live as agents of justice, renewal, restoration and mercy for all, in those ways and probably many others, also, to be the presence of Jesus Christ...