Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's raining here, what's it like where you are?

We had reservations at Myrtle Beach for this weekend. As the weekend and Tropical Storm Hanna both drew closer, it looked more and more like they would converge together sometime on Friday. So, we stayed home.

At home we basically did some things around the house and monitored the storm. The local television stations kept broadcasting updates all day long. Local schools were closed. They were not expecting Hanna to hit us directly, but from everything the meteorologists said, I felt sure we would see a significant amount of rain and wind.

We kept waiting and anticipating. Around 5 pm Scott and I went outside to bring the cat in. She is truly and outdoor cat, so it was not an easy task. We just didn’t want her to be outside in the storm.

We waited all night long. We saw a little wind and a few raindrops, but nothing big. Our electricity stayed on. There was one point for a couple of hours when we had no water, which was odd. Even though we had bottled water in the house, I think Scott and I both realized we could live without power a lot longer than we could live without water. Ahh, I think that’s a metaphorical lesson for another day.

But the whole storm thing...We spent our entire day looking for it. Waiting. Anticipating. Planning. Rearranging our plans. For us, it turned out to be just another day with no extreme weather.

The whole episode has brought home a sermon I heard about two or three weeks ago. It bothered me and I’ve been carrying it around in my mind ever since. It wasn’t that the words of the sermon convicted me of some great sin or anything, it’s just that I realized how much we put words into the mouth of God that aren’t really there. We keep looking for storms that aren’t really there.

The sermon was based on Matthew 14:22-33. It’s the story of Jesus walking on the water.

Stop a minute and think about what you know about that story. What was the weather like that night?

Was your answer “stormy”?

And how about the disciples? The three gospels that tell story describe them as being afraid. What were they afraid of?

Was your answer “the storm”?

And if you had to sum up a lesson from the story, what would it be?

Did your answer have something to do with Jesus coming to us, being with us, in the storm?

Well, I read and reread that story in all three gospels (Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6), and the only evidence of weather I could find was wind. Just wind. No rain, or thunder, or lightening.

And, it seemed the wind wasn’t swirling, it was merely blowing hard from the direction they were headed. They faced a strong headwind. That’s all.

It reminded me of being on the beach on a very windy day, when the sun is still bright and hot and the water it still cool. The high wind blows sand all over my towel and the waves are numerous and frequent – good surfing weather if I were a surfer. Not exactly what I would call a stormy day.

And the gospels all say that the disciples were frightened with they saw Jesus. Their fear had nothing to do with the weather. They were afraid, so the scriptures say, because they thought they saw a ghost.

I think the story is more about the disciples being faced with the miraculous, divine, power of Jesus. They were faced with it and challenged to believe that it could be theirs, and it scared them to death.

It’s kinda like being handed the reins or the car keys or whatever for the very first time, only on a more giant scale. A power you’ve never had before if now available to you. It is frightening.

I’m not sure why we so often associate a storm with this story. Maybe it is because we don’t want to believe it or face it or admit that the miraculous can actually be ours, so we let ourselves become distracted by the weather. We forfeit the power Jesus displays and assign it to the weather. And before you know it, we have convinced ourselves there really is a storm out there even though we don’t feel or see the rain.

It’s a lot easier to just talk about the weather, whether it is actual or merely forecast. But to really know that the power that makes the wind blow is available to you, now that’s something to talk about.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
Matthew 14:37

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