The following meditation is from Deb Ward, a Broadway Christian Church member and leader of our Stephen Ministry. She makes the clear connection between nature storms and any storm of life and the kind of theology that can interpret them all:

The Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came the sound of a gentle whisper.

(Kings 19:11-12)

 On Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado with winds of over 200 MPH dropped down on Joplin, MO, flattening over 800 dwellings, 500 commercial properties, and leaving a death toll of at least 138. Here in Columbia, a safe distance away, we felt the agony of those who lost loved ones, homes, businesses, their workplaces, and their sense of personal safety to the raging, monstrous storm. The sobering reality was that the storm in Joplin, while the worst of the season’s tornadoes, was only one of a number of tragic acts of nature that struck over a three-month period, including the massive tsunami in Japan.

Gathered in our sanctuary, our safe place, at Broadway on the following Sunday, we listened as Pastor Tim related his experience of “being there” for his brother, a Joplin resident, in the storm’s aftermath. He shared photos, told us things the media didn’t, and talked about picking through the rubble of his brother’s business, helping as he could.

Tim reminded us that this storm was not an act of God, but rather an act of nature. God and nature are not the same. Ancient religions could not discern between God and nature, but we can. We know that this storm was not evidence of God’s wrath. God was not in that tornado. The tornado was a random act of nature, not an act of God.

Life brings us many kinds of storms, whether acts of nature, circumstances beyond our control, or situations we help to create. We can feel broken. But Tim reminded us that while the road ahead may be broken by the storm, God brings restoration and hope.

God is not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but rather in the small still voice. God is there for us in all of the storms of life. In a world full of uncertainty, God is the one constant we can rely on. God speaks in the gentle whisper that guides us. God is the source of abundant love. God brings comfort and healing. Take needed action. But also be still. Know that God is near. Listen for the small still voice, and find hope in it.

(Based on sermon by Tim Carson, May 29, 2011.)

 Creator God, thank you for your many blessings. We ask that you would comfort the tornado victims in their losses. Help those in storm-torn areas to accept assurances of your love and mercy. As we face the storms of life, help us to calm down from the adrenaline rush that fear brings. Help us to listen so that we can hear your gentle whisper. May we always remember your faithfulness to us and your love for us. ~ Amen


To read the full manuscript of Tim Carson’s sermon, And the Lord was not in the Wind (May 29, 2011) click here:

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