Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes...hurricanes...oh my!

I have been laughing to myself as I consider that a hurricane is heading towards the east coast of the United States which bears my mother’s name. As a friend reminded me, mothers are a force of nature to be reckoned with, not necessarily a destructive one though. Knowing what my mom was capable of, I can’t help but smile as I think about this impending hurricane. It’s also funny to know that this hurricane has been called “Irene” considering that the name means “peace.” Interesting choice.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was driving the 3 miles back to work from my house, my car seemed to have lost its alignment and I thought that my wheels were going to fall off. I held tightly to the wheel in hopes that I could make it to the church, bracing myself for what might happen. In a moment, my car’s alignment seemed to be fine again and I thought, “that was interesting.”

When I got to the church, some of the ladies who work in the office were standing outside and they looked a little disturbed. It was at that moment that I realized that something else had happened that had nothing to do with my car’s alignment. They began talking about the experience of being in the building when the earthquake hit.

Cell phone service was spotty at best. Landlines were not functioning properly either. Thankfully, texting seemed to be fine and my wife and I were able to text back and forth with some people to let them know that we were all right. At that point, I began to appreciate social media and the internet even more as it was an efficient way to communicate to multiple people that we were all right.

One of my friends who I had spent a week with recently wrote on my Facebook wall, “What. A. year. I really hope 2012 is less exciting for you man.” That sort of seems to be the way of 2011 for us. I keep joking about writing a book because you just can’t make this kind of stuff up. I guess the best fiction is non-fiction, there is power in story, even more so when you know it is true.

In the midst of all of this, I couldn’t help but thinking about Romans 8. I read Romans 8 aloud on the car ride to Williamsburg on the day of my mom’s funeral. Over the last few years, I was really led to this chapter in Paul’s letter to be reminded of the impact of “The Fall.” I would encourage a thorough reading of the entire chapter, but here are a few verses from the middle of the chapter.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There are some who are quick to point out that natural disasters are a sign of the end times. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24:6-8 were, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

To be honest, Paul’s words in Romans signify to me so much more than the “end times.” Without getting into an eschatological debate or treatise, we have been in the “end times” since Jesus ascended to heaven. The instructions that he gave to his disciples and followers are 2000 years old, which doesn’t make them any less relevant, but those instructions were imminently lived out then and should continue to be imminently lived out now. If there was an urgency that Christ’s return was soon back then, that same urgency should exist today.

I say that not to instill fear into anyone but to evoke a sense of urgency in all of us who consider ourselves followers of Christ. Are we urgently sharing the hope that is within us to those who have not experienced it? Do we allow for others to see that in spite of natural and even man-made disasters that we experience?

In light of Romans 8, all of these things that we experience, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, they are a result of creation groaning to be the way that it was created to be. As long as we live on this side of fallen creation, we will continue to experience these things, whether Christ returns tomorrow or 1000 years from now. Until creation is re-created, restored, and redeemed, it will groan, sometimes louder than others, for redemption to occur. In the mean time, what will we do about it? Will we pack our bags and wave our signs about the impending judgment? Or will we get to work, letting others see the hope that we experience in Jesus Christ, letting them see the light that has shone brightly to the darkness of our world? What will you choose? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord…and get off our butts and get busy, not waving signs, but spreading hope.

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