As Florence approaches landfall, surely we are in prayer for God to calm her fury and for all who are in harm’s way! Praying, responding with hands-on help or donating disaster assistance supplies are but a few ways in which we carry out the New Testament commands to “love one another” and “bear one another’s burdens,” etc.
My mentor Sarah grew up in Wilmington, NC on the coast, where her father was “the” OB/GYN in town who delivered all the babies. As a child, she played at Wrightsville Beach; as an adult she lived verynear the beach and waterway with her teen-age (and later, young adult) children. Storm after storm passed through. Sarah elected to stay at home during the hurricanes. Her house – even the roof – was never damaged! After each storm she exclaimed, “How you see and hear the mighty power of God through the storms!!” Amazed by her words, I listened – for she was “on to” an important concept about bearing witness to the power of God.
Today storm patterns are scientifically predictable via radar and are broadcast by television and social media. Just as storms make us stop and pay attention today, they did the same to ancient people. Do you recall Job’s writing about storm? Job the Prophet tells us in 37:5 that God “does great things beyond our understanding.”
My Program Director for the College of Theology in Columbia, Dr. Douglas Estes, was published in Christianity Todaythis week. To Sarah’s point, he writes:
Often when God acts, there is no explanation. We can only be a witness to it. When God acts, it may be that we’re not meant to explain it in human terms- but only to be a witness to what God does.
Matthew records an unexplainable event in his gospel. After Jesus’ death on the cross, Matthew writes: ‘And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many’ (Matt. 27: 51–53, NIV).
Matthew’s matter-of-fact description suggests that what happened simply cannot be explained. You had to be there to see it. We live in an age of information. But the explanatory power of scientific theories is limited. The miracles that Jesus did point us to the power of God that works in our world and in our lives. Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to explain his miracles to others, he simply asked that they be witnesses to it.
When we see God act in powerful ways, we bear witness. When we see people serve others in weak ways to God’s glory, we bear witness. We grieve over the devastation wrought by storms like Florence, we do we all can to help storm victims in Christ’s name, yet in our own grief we still acknowledge ‘his way is in the whirlwind and the storm’ (Nahum 1:3). In these and every circumstance, we serve as witnesses so that who God is may be known throughout our world (Acts 1:8).
You can predict the storm, you can track the storm, you can prepare for the storm, but you can’t interpret the storm. You can only witness it.
May we be faithful witnesses in fulfillment of Acts 1: 8.
Blessings and gracee,