TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Whatever their ilk, storms have a way of bringing us to our senses, but also to helplessness, and perhaps even to our knees.
On a day not unlike so many others, four of us found ourselves standing on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon at 7,000 feet above sea level when a summer rain storm laced with thunder and lightning rolled in and stranded us. All of my Cub Scout wisdom from the third grade taught me never to stand beneath a tree in a lightning storm. Standing nakedly out in the open all the while drenched in swirling rain seemed little better, though in the end it seemed a wiser choice, and so we began sloshing our way back to the lodge two miles away. Storms can leave us vulnerable.
On a day not unlike so many others, we were camping in the Rockies on a sunlit and grassy meadow slipped in between two looming mountain peaks. A windstorm saddled with pelting rain swept in and drove us into our tent. As the wind turned to a gale, the tent began to lean and strain and bow, and for an hour we pushed back against the tent poles, desperate for the tent to remain standing. By the end, the poles and tent stood both bent and twisted. Storms can leave our lives in shambles.
On a day not unlike so many others, a friend and I canoed the Wisconsin River and then camped for the night on an island. During the night, the rain began to storm and continued on all night. In the morning, we discovered that the river had risen and floated away our canoe. Storms can leave us helpless and abandoned.
On a day not unlike so many others, Jesus and his friends were crossing the eight-mile-wide Lake of Galilee when a storm began to swamp their boats and also their very lives. Desperate and fearful they might die, they woke Jesus, who was asleep through it all. Storms can confront us with our mortality.
While storms tend to be the result of colliding weather, they may also be the result of colliding egos, each of us with varying agendas and needs. The storms of our everyday living may be emotional or physical, at times personal and at other times relational. They frighten and sometimes they sting. They can be relentless, and they can render us powerless. Sometimes the storms of our lives can even lead us to faith.
When Job found his life stripped of all that he held dear, his friends urged him to blame God. Though Job refused, it was out of the storm of Job’s life that God spoke to him. That may also be when God speaks to us – those stormy days when we are vulnerable and upended and feeling helplessly alone and confronted by our mortality.
So then, a question worth pondering: Is it more likely that you hear the voice of God in the calm and stillness of life or in the midst of life’s storms? On the one hand, when the prophet Elijah was being pursued by Queen Jezebel’s forces and so fled to Mount Horeb, he heard God there not in the wind or earthquake or fire but in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13), and Joseph heard the angel tell him to take Mary as his wife in the quiet of a nighttime dream (Matthew 1:20), and Jesus went off to the desert early in the morning to pray by himself. (Mark 1:35)
On the other hand, just as Job heard God speak to him out of the storm (Job 38:1), so also Moses and the people stood before the mountain of God in the midst of thunder and lightning when God spoke to them (Exodus 19:16-20), and the Spirit came upon the Twelve with a strong driving wind at Pentecost (Acts 2:2), and of course this Sunday’s gospel when they were being swamped by a storm as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. (Mark 4:35-41)
I know that I tend to prefer my life to be steady and calm and predictable, often wondering why my life at times needs to be otherwise. Such unruffled times, however, tend to leave me content and not in need of anything, much less God. It tends to be the storms of my life that seem to push me into a faith that trusts in a power greater than myself.
It would be worthwhile, then, not to dismiss too quickly whether the storms of life that so often buffet us may also be the times when God speaks to us.
How do you deal with the storms of life that come your way?
Are you more likely to hear God speak in the calm of life or in the storms of life?