Another named storm headlines the news. Some years we’ve run out of letters from the English alphabet and have had to move on to the Greek alphabet. And those are only the storms that make it to the majors. Plenty of other storms create their own level of havoc without names. We, in the path of the storms, know something about cedars breaking, oaks whirling, and floods covering.
At the same time, modern technology gives us another view of storms. We can see them from above. The bigger the storm, the more majestic it appears. My first big storm was Hurricane Hugo (1989). Hugo was a beauty. The satellite images showed a perfectly formed eyewall, with interior solid cloud sheets giving way to spiral bands that stretched across five hundred miles. The heavenly perspective of a hurricane.
The storm’s maker loves it. The storm is a thing of beauty, calling Lebanon to “skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.” The storm from above is a playground. “And in [the] temple all say, ‘Glory!’”
Perspective is everything in most of life. If we see the Red Sea from the shore, it looks impassable; from above it needs only a small path of dry land between two water walls. If we see thousands of people (five thousand men plus women and children) waiting for food, it looks hopeless; from above they need only a few loaves and fishes to create abundance. If we see a pool of water, a font, maybe a river, at eye level, it looks ordinary; from above it evokes new life with only three words: “I baptize you.”
“The Holy Spirit work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ” (Baptismal Covenant I, The United Methodist Book of Worship).
Water is an important theme throughout the Bible. The authors of scripture use water as an image of transition and sometimes challenge, and they tie it back to God’s renewing work. Isaiah records the divine promise that God will not abandon Israel, even if they pass through trying waters—a reference to the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. The psalmist declares that God’s voice covers all the waters, so nothing can come against us that is beyond God’s reach. In Acts we see the connection between baptism—passing through the water—and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is on the inclusion of the Samaritans, a group considered unclean by many but not by God. We see clearly the connection between water baptism and the Spirit in the baptism of Jesus himself.
Read Isaiah 43:1-7. Isaiah presents an image of God’s favor that is at once particular and universal. How do you experience God’s love for you and for all persons as part of the body of Christ?
Read Psalm 29. God’s creation, in its wildness, incorporates destruction. In the face of disaster, how do you find a way to say, “Glory”?
Read Acts 8:14-17. Our baptism is in the name of Jesus and the name of the Spirit. To what wildness does the Spirit prompt you?
Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. Remember your baptism and listen for God’s call out into the wildness of the world.
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