Sunday, September 15, 2019

God is in the Thunder

Today’s Psalm is a beautiful psalm Ps. 29 ‘God in the Storm’
Thunder, in this Psalm, is described as the voice of God, a powerful force that strikes Earth with great force, while the beings in the heavenly temple respond with the cry of ‘Glory’!”

Lets hear the psalm of David as transliterated through the Message

A David Psalm
29 1-2 Bravo, God, bravo!
    Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
    in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
    Dress your best to honor him!
3 God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.
4 God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.
5 God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.
6 The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.
7-8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.
9 God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”
10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
    from which his power flows,
    from which he rules the world.
11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.

“In today’s Gospel Jesus physically calms a storm and then asks the question “why don’t you trust me?”
In the Psalm Gods voice is in the thunder and flattens the cedars.  Now the image of a man telling the seas to calm and the storm to cease is hard to picture, but if anyone has seen pictures of mount St. Helen’s we know what flattened cedars look like.

There is a dichotomy in our souls when it comes to storms.  How many are in awe when they see videos of thunder and lightning or maybe a tornado in a field somewhere in a distance?  How many glue themselves to the flooding and the storm surge and the spectacle of a reporter in a hurricane.

There is a sense of safety and awe and beauty when we see a storm at a distance.  We are not affected by it.  I remember when I first entered the diocesan seminary in Detroit.  It was an old gothic building built in 1923 and the tower was about 7 or 8 stories high and, being the explorer, I am, I found the hatch that opened to the flat roof of the tower.  We could sit there and see an approaching storm from miles away with lightning bolts flashing against an enormous cloud.

It was safe to watch a storm from a distance but when it lands and the walls shake and the wind howls and the windows rattle, well, our perception changes. It becomes angry and threatening and we cannot wait for it to be over, especially if you ever had to sit in the basement listening to the am transistor radio waiting for an all clear from a tornado warning.

 Our ancient world often blamed the storms on angry God’s and yet those same God’s were also attributed with fertility in many cases.  Why?  Because rain brings new growth and feeds the crops in spite of it being terrifying.

However the Hebrews, from where our Jesus’ tradition and faith is rooted, “believed that God, without any detriment to God’s majesty, Makes God’s presence known even through the force of nature…The Israelites envisioned God as one who reveals God’s self through the sudden and the unexpected, the terrifying and awesome forces of nature, namely the thunderstorm and lightning.”

Often storms are attributed to God’s wrathful response, with an image of a vengeful God. I know how that must feel. Lord knows my LGBTQ community gets blamed for every storm, flood and tornado that happens. That is except when it hits the home of a wrathful preacher.

In article from the religion exactly in the month of August in 2016“(RNS) comes the news that the Baton Rouge flooding destroyed Tony Perkins’ home and forced the Family Research Council president and his family to escape by canoe to their RV on higher ground.
Perkins revealed this in a special segment of his radio show a couple of days ago, describing the disaster as “a flood of near biblical proportions.”
There are those who have noted some irony here, since when Hurricane Joaquin threatened Washington last year, Perkins declared the storm to be God’s punishment for the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
That of course recalled the interpretations of Hurricane Katrina by Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Yehuda Levin, as well as Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s explanation of 9/11, and so on.
These are what’s known in the trade as exercises in theodicy — justifying bad things as demonstrations of God’s goodness, omnipotence, and righteous judgment….Perkins, who in his interview stayed away from any speculation of this sort. The flood, he said, “is a great opportunity for the Church to minister.” The experience has taught him “what is important. Sometimes we get too occupied with the other things of life.”

I hate to say it but Tony Perkins got something right.  In the midst of the storm we need to trust God.  Jesus asked; “why don’t you trust me?”  I mean the disciples had Jesus right there with them, physically with them and yet, in the midst of a storm, they panicked.

In this day and age as we are seeing more extreme weather, more storms, more devastation instead of playing the blame game or getting all justified and righteous we need to see this for what it is.  God’s voice is in the thunder and this is our call not only to minister to others but to the planet herself.

The voice of God could not be any louder, could it?  Summer is hotter, fire season in some parts of our country is all year long, hurricanes are stronger, and floods are moving further inland.  Yet many do not trust that this is the voice of God calling all humanity into action.

I am not speaking of just the continued call to service and monies needed for refugees and victims of natural disasters but the call to reverse what we can and to try to limit the extent of human damage to the atmosphere, and the planet.

We have come a long way and, as I pointed out last week, we have lost species to extinction but we have achieved bringing certain species back from the edge of extinction, Such as the hump back whale, the tigers in western Thailand, the Burmese star tortoise, and the great adjutant storks.

“Unchecked collection of eggs and chicks, along with destruction of its flooded forest habitat, proved disastrous for the world’s rarest stork, the greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius). But with protection of the flooded forest on Cambodia's Tonle Sap (Southeast Asia's largest lake) by community rangers, the stork is on the up and up. The Cambodia Ministry of Environment and WCS created a program in which local people are paid to guard nests (rather than deplete them). In just a decade, the greater adjutant population has grown from just 30 to over 200 pairs – accounting for 50 percent of the global population of approximately 800 to 1200 mature greater adjutants..”

I am also proud to say that our government, at times, does it part.
“When he signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, President Obama marked the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation, designating more than 2 million acres of federal wilderness, thousands of miles of trails, and protecting more than 1,000 miles of rivers. In addition, the President has used his authority under the Antiquities Act 13 times to permanently preserve some of America’s most treasured landscapes and waters, most recently designating the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Los Angeles County, one of the most disadvantaged counties in the country when it comes to access to parks and open space for minorities and children.”

I know this is a lot about president Obama but he has done a lot more than most if not all the past presidents for example he also has created the largest marine sanctuary in the world with a single signature he created a reserve that ended up “resulting in 370,000 square nautical miles (490,000 square miles) of protected area around these tropical islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Expanding the Monument will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.”   Yes this was just one man with a lot of power but each one of us can seek out ways to make a difference.

But even this administration somehow has managed to allow some protections to slip through and be signed into law.

“A fresh wilderness designation in southern New Mexico. A new national monument in Los Angeles. Hundreds of miles of river protected in Oregon. A ban on new mining projects on Yellowstone National Park’s doorstep. These were a few of the crowd-pleasers the Senate tossed, with Oprah-esque glee, into a bipartisan public-lands bill that passed on Feb. 12.”

Now I admit I do not trust this administration to completely follow through even though it was signed into law but this bill offers some hope as it Permanently Authorizes and Fundsthe Land and Water Conservation Fund, Protects National Parks From Nearby Mining, Protects Public Lands in Utah, Protects Connecticut’s Rivers
And it has 11 other provisions in it.

Saturday is beach cleanup day and over 500000 volunteers in 91 countries are expected to get together and clean up beaches.  “In 2018, volunteers collected a grand total of 127,983 pieces of trash that totaled 10,492 pounds…  the Coastal Program adopted a portion of the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge at Fabyan Point on Great Bay in Newington, through the Blue Ocean Society's Adopt-a-Beach Program and under the direction of a member of the management team at the refuge. Coastal Program staff committed to clean up this spot two times a year and to record the items collected on data cards provided by the Blue Ocean Society. Last year, staff conducted two cleanups, with one in the spring and one in the fall. The total pounds of trash collected was 538lbs, including some large bulky items like barrels and coolers. The Coastal Program is planning to continue its participation in the Adopt-A-Spot program.”

We have done a lot around here on the conservation side and we preach about it a lot but you know  I would encourage you , if you have never done it, take a ride up into the mountains take a look at what your tax dollars are protecting it is truly amazing.

Take a drive, a slow drive, along the coast and stop, just stop in a remote spot where you have just you and the ocean.  And if you do not hear the voice of God in the waves, or if you do not see the hand of God in a mountain sunset you are not listening or looking very hard.

Better yet the next time you see extreme weather or really feel the humidity that  sometimes seems to never end or are tempted to gripe about the snowfall we got because it seems like it’s just here to make life miserable.  Listen to what the voice of God is calling us to do.  Cry out in anguish and anger and fear then do something, hear Gods voice in the thunder and answer; “We trust you  God and we shall act accordingly!”  Amen.

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