Welcome of Creation: Storm Blessing 9/15/13

Psalm 29  Give glory to YHWH , you heavenly court, give YHWH glory and strength! Give forth the glory that God’s Name deserves, and worship YHWH in the splendor of holiness! The voice of YHWH responds over the waters; the God of glory thunders over the raging seas. God’s voice is powerful.  God’s voice is full of  majesty. The voice of YHWH snaps the cedars, shatters the cedars of Lebanon. It makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of YHWH strikes with bolts of lightning; the voice of YHWH shakes the wilderness, the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of God twists the oaks, and strips the forests bare; and in God’s temple all cry, “Glory!” YHWH sits in judgment over the flood; YHWH is its ruler forever. Give strength to your people, YHWH! Bless your people with peace!

Luke 8:22-25 One day he and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass 25 Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?” They were in absolute awe, staggered and stammering, “Who is this, anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea, and they do what he tells them!”

Sept. 15, 2013

Welcome of Creation: Storm Blessing

44    Sometimes when there is a big storm – with thunder booming and lighting crashing, with waves of rain pouring down, I like to go out on the porch of my house and just watch and listen. When was the last time you did that?
As long as you have a roof overhead, a storm like that can be beautiful, true? Think back on times when you enjoyed listening to the rain on the roof of a tent, or the roof of your car, or the roof of a cabin or house.
44a    It’s fun partly because of the awe the storm engenders, the power you sense behind that storm, the power of the Creator. It can feel a little dangerous. I remember one storm that came when Elijah and Cathy and I were at Pastor David Eckert’s house in Upper Darby and it started to hail. We could hardly believe these pieces of ice coming out of the sky and covering the earth. Yes, that was a little scary, and beautiful, and fun.
44b    Storms can be a lot more than a little scary, of course. We have had some truly scary storms in the last 10 years – especially in 2005, when our country experienced Hurricane Katrina, one of the costliest storms in US history. Hurricane Andrew was another huge storm, which caused a lot of damage in 1992. The deadliest natural disaster in US history though, was the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 which killed between 6,000 to 8,000 people.
I ran into someone yesterday who was injured in Hurricane Andrew when she was living down in Florida. She said she is still recovering. Another friend of mine lived through Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii in 1992 on her September 11th birthday. She spent the whole night in the bathtub with a mattress over her head as a wind blew through like a train.
The evidence that I read for this sermon said that it is still debatable whether intense storms are becoming more frequent, but they said there is little doubt that they are becoming more intense.
So mostly we would think of storms as a problem, a pain, maybe even a curse. Before I thought about it much I called my sermon “Storm Blessing.” The blessing of a storm comes precisely in the clarity it gives us that there are things in the universe that we cannot control, there are things way beyond what we can control. This lack of control can lead to real spiritual insight. When European people first came to this land, the land seemed so abundant and fertile that they felt it was endlessly disposable. They fought to control their own piece of the land, but did not feel like they really had to care for it. We could use up the resources of the land without worry, because there was no end to it. People seemed to be on a quest to control the land and the people of the land.
Christianity of the time emphasized the individual. Each person’s individual relationship with the divine was key to them having an afterlife. Protestant Christianity evolved to accommodate the view that people were meant to have control and dominion over the earth.
That form of individualized Christianity does not serve us well any more.  There has always been a kind of spirituality that represents a deeper connection to the earth. I can imagine farmers having a sense of connection to the earth and reverence for the earth, but according to Thomas Berry that reverence for the earth did not really show up in the art of this country until the Romantic period of the 18th century when Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau were writing and the mid 19th century when people Thomas Cole, Frederich Church, and Asher Durand were painting lush and glorious nature scenes. They had a beautiful sense of spiritual presence in the paintings of the country around them.
Today, even as more and more people live in cities and have less connection with the land, there are new and lively conversations under way in many religious institutions and denominations about the Earth and its living systems. New doctrinal statements are being crafted and adopted regarding Earth ethics and eco-justice. [Vivienne Hull, p. 32, Earth and Spirit]
We live in a time where storms are growing more intense, and the storms become a metaphor for the difficulties we face as human beings in relation to God’s creation. We have a longing to be back in touch with the beauty of God’s creation and a sense that maybe we can’t control it or stay separate from it the way we used to feel. There is a growing understanding that when the land is healthy, the people are healthy, that abusing the land and laying waste to the environment causes damage to ourselves.
We are part of the land and the land is part of us. We are all connected to God’s creation, and interconnected with the parts of that creation. The growing intensity of the storms warn us that we can no longer live as though we can use up the earth, as though the earth is disposable and controllable.
We sense our connection to God’s creation in the awe we feel in a storm we experience from the shelter of our porch or our car. We know there is something bigger than us, something beautiful and awesome. There have always been really destructive storms in our world. As I said the most deadly in our history happened more than a hundred years ago. The evidence that I read for this sermon said that it is still debatable whether intense storms are becoming more frequent, but they said there is little doubt that they are becoming more intense.
We are learning to protect ourselves from the worst of the storms. The deeper question though is whether we can learn to live more in harmony with the environment we live in, so that we don’t contribute to the growing intensity of the storms?
We know God’s presence with us no matter how intense the storm. We sing of that presence often. We feel that presence especially in the storms of our lives.
Responsive Hymn:  3101 Love Lifted Me