Once again our prayers rise up for people caught in the eye of the storm. Missouri. Illinois. Indiana. Kentucky.
Lord, have mercy.
Once again preachers are blaiming the people and naming the weather pattern “judgment.”
Christ, have mercy.
I’m trying to go through my biblical rolodex of understanding and I’m coming up short on weather patterns equalling God’s judgment or wrath. Best I can recollect is the Flood story in the primeval history of Genesis, though God promised never to flood the earth again. Or those succinct words from Jesus in Mark’s Gospel about misreading signs and no one knowing the day nor the hour.
If we are going to use the bible to decipher weather patterns, perhaps a little bible study is in order. Let’s look at 1 Kings 19.
Elijah is up on Mt. Horeb after fleeing from that Woman King Jezebel. He is afraid and would rather die than be killed. In his complaint he is told to stand on the mountain of God for God was about to pass by. So he went. First, there was a wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire, but God was not in those things (note, Elijah was expecting God to be in those things, but God was not in those things). Finally, there was a still small voice, or a quiet whimper, or sheer silence, and Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle (a cloak-like garment) for he knew that God had just shown up. God gave Elijah a new purpose and a new hope that Elijah was not the only one left, there was a community waiting for him.
In the Old Testament, there was an expectation that God, a force of life and being beyond our control or concealing, would be present in things like whirlwinds, earthquakes and fires; forces beyond our control or concealing. But in Elijah’s story, God was not in those things. God was in the still small voice, or quiet whimper, or sheer silence. Where is God in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky? Not in judgment, but in the silence that comes after such a shock; not in wrath, but in the whimpers of children making sense of terror; not in anger, but in the still, small voices of volunteers who wish to find life in the midst of death.
God doesn’t cause suffering, but God shows up in it. God is not afraid of suffering and knows we’ll find God there (that’s what Martin Luther called the Theology of the Cross). God calls us into suffering in order to help transform it by doing what we’ve confessed God has been doing all along: creating order out of chaos, pulling creation out of destruction, calling forth life out from death.