As we watch the images and await the arrival of the power and fury of Dorian's wind and waves we quickly realize how finite, powerless, and vulnerable we actually are. The normal routine of our daily schedule which lulls us into complacency is interrupted by dire predictions and fear-inducing pronouncements that remind us that we are neither self-sufficient nor impervious to destruction. Hurricanes humble us and remind us of our need.
Yet despite our weakness, we cling to our delusions self-sufficiency. We scoff at the meteorologists, we laugh at those who evacuate too early, and we curse those who hinder our ability to stockpile hurricane supplies. We make predictions for the path of the storm, we board up our homes, we hunker down or flee the path of the storm. All the while, trusting our own ability, power, and strength to preserve us. Unless we humble our hearts we will never heed the sermon in the storm.
In the face of the coming storm we do not trust our ability to find shelter or quickly evacuate but trust the words we sang as children, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so, little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong." When wind speeds, storm-surges, and cones of uncertainty strike fear in our hearts we need to look to the one who is greater than the storm: Jesus Christ. This is not a empty platitude for those in denial or a hollow promise to those who suffer great loss (like our neighbors in the Bahamas). It is a reminder we have a shelter from a storm whose power is greater than ourselves. Therefore, we turn our gaze to the storm that we may trust the grace and mercy of the God who "makes the clouds his chariot; [who] rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3).
With each new storm that lurks offshore we are reminded of two profound realities:
1) Our worth is not in what we own
If our homes are flooded, our possessions spoiled, and the things we left behind destroyed we can rejoice through tears knowing that these things are not the measure of our worth nor the measure of God's love for us. Home can be rebuilt and possessions repurchased...but our lives and God's love cannot. Hurricanes calibrate our hearts by cutting the strings of materialism and idolatry that controls our hearts like a puppeteer. When we leave behind our possessions or return to them destroyed, we realize they cannot save us, give us value, or brings us hope. As the New City Catechism reminds us, "Our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ." My worth is not found in what Dorian leaves behind but what Dorian can never touch: the love of God expressed through Christ.
"Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is." 1 John 3:1-2
Whatever Dorian's fury brings, I belong to Jesus. He loves me and I am safe in his arms.
2) Jesus Christ is the only shelter from the final storm
Natural disasters are reminders that a greater storm is coming on the Day of the Lord. A day when God will vanquish his enemies along with sin and sadness, pain and sorrow to the depths of Hell to face the eternal wrath of God (1 Thess 1:9-10;Rev 21:1-8). We are not born as children of God but into the kingdom of darkness. Jesus taught Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. One is not born again by religious ritual, act of charity, kindness, piety, or penance but by God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The storm of God's wrath will fall upon many who prophesied, cast out demons, and did mighty works in the name of the Lord (Matt 7:22). Yet the promise of the gospel declares that all who find shelter in the cross of Christ will find refuge on the day of the Lord (Rom 5:1). Not because of what they have done but because they trust the promise of God which declares that Christ has absorbed their wrath and given them his righteousness that they may dwell eternally in peace with God (2 Cor 5:21;Romans 8:1). Jesus loves me and I am safe in the shadow of the cross.
Don't Waste Dorian
Last month Denise purchased "Every Moment Holy" by Douglas McKelvey who has written liturgies (or prayers for us Baptist folk) for both momentous and ordinary occasions of life to remind us that every moment is lived in the presence of God. I would encourage you to read his "Liturgy for Watching Storms" individually or as a family so that you would not waste Dorian but listen to the sermon within the storm that reminds us of the worth we have in Christ and the unfailing shelter of the cross. Soli Deo Gloria! - Pastor Chris
Liturgy for Watching Storms
In every storm there is a sermon playing out in parable across the canvas of sky, telling of the awesome power of one whose judgments are just, but whose mercies are thereby all the more scandalous and unexpected, and whose tender love for us is beyond comprehension.
Praise be to God, for his infinite mercies.
Indeed we praise you, O Lord, that having both might and right to crush whatever within us would assert itself against you, you instead crushed yourself, and by that act offered us life, taking the brunt of such furious judgment into your own form, and shielding us forever from what our treason so rightly deserved.
Thanks be to God, for his unmerited grace.
Now may these mighty winds, these lightning strikes, these crashing calls of thunder, these hard rains, by their fierce beauty set us in awe— their witness rightly reminding us of that just verdict we will never have to face, the ferocity of these elements an inverse testament to the affections of the one whose strong love has now become our shield against the coming storm.
Glory to God, for his sheltering love, extended even to us.
O Christ Who is Our Peace, cradle us now, even as you will cradle us at that final reckoning, calming every fear by your nearness, as we watch with wondering eyes, this storm-told story of a great judgment and an even greater mercy.
“Liturgy for the Watching of Storms.” Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey et al., Rabbit Room Press, 2017, pp. 80–81. Used with permission: transaction RRS-53211
Soli Deo Gloria