The world has recently been bombarded with two words that have now become household expressions. They are Katrina and Tsunami. The devastation caused by the Hurricane Katrina, and the great Tidal Wave that hit on Christmas Day with the loss of thousands of lives, will live on in the memories of many people. The effect of wind, causing hurricanes, and earthquakes, causing tsunamis, show us that we live on a rather unstable planet. The uncertainty of life is not just related to accidents on the highway, or plane travel, or even sudden devastating illnesses. We are also subject to phenomena related to the instability of the planet we occupy.
Fishermen have always been aware of dangers at sea, and realise that their livelihood is a very dangerous occupation. We used to sing a hymn with the words, ‘Let our cry come unto Thee for those in peril on the sea,’ asking the Lord in His mercy to undertake for all the fisher folk. When the elements rise up in sudden revolt, as with mighty waves at sea, or during seismic activity, man seems to be so small and helpless.
This was the scene on the Sea of Galilee on a certain occasion. Let us read the account again. (Mark 4:35-41)
When evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd they took Him with them in the boat. There were also other boats with them. A great storm of wind arose, so that their boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, fast asleep on a cushion. They awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, doYou not care if we perish?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind, saying, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ They were filled with awe, saying one to another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and waves obey Him?’
Our Lord, when in His earthly body, had but a vastly reduced ability to perform great and miraculous acts, and yet we see from this account, as with the previous one when He made wine from water, that the true glory of His God-hood shone through. John called Jesus ‘the Word’, and referred to Him as the Creator. Here on earth He demonstrated the fact by these two miracles.
Have we fully appreciated the greatness of our Lord?’ Do we still say, with the disciples, ‘Who then is this, that the wind and the waves obey Him?’ Shall we not rather look with bated breath and wonder at the One who not only creates, but also controls the elements? And if God is in full control of the ‘instabilities’ in this world, how shall we view the disasters of Katrina and the Tsunami?’ Does anything happen by chance?’ In these rationalistic days, everything is ‘explained’ by science. We are told that global warming is due to human activity. We are shown how hurricanes form, and why. We have maps showing the ‘ring of fire’ where earthquakes most frequently occur, and how they happen as a result of the ‘subduction of tectonic plates.’ God has been shown the back door. He is neither needed, believed in, or worshipped. Certainly He is not feared. And yet when people find themselves in sudden great danger, what do they say? Almost without thinking they cry out, ‘God help me!’
This has become a very touchy subject. No one likes to be told that God is in charge of the elements. They will round on you and say, ‘Are you telling me that your God is responsible for Katrina?’ And they get angry. To them it is justifiable anger. ‘If they are willing to listen to sermons about God, they only want a God who is tame, ‘not wild, (to quote C.S.Lewis, concerning Aslan).‘ They want a God who heals them, who smiles kindly on them regardless of their lifestyle, who would never hurt a fly. And the worst part is that there are plenty of preachers who provide that type of rhetoric. It helps to maintain large congregations, and keep the money flowing into pastoral pockets.
But we need to look again at the two acts of creation mentioned in these chapters. The creation of wine, and the control of the winds and waves. Either God is in charge of the elements, or else He doesn’t exist. It is a most unpleasant task to review the devastation caused by hurricanes and earthquakes, and ask why God is doing it, or allowing it. But within our very limited knowledge of His overall will, we are bound to ask ourselves questions, even if we cannot come to definite conclusions.’ Some have openly said that Katrina was a judgment from God on the shocking lifestyle of those in New Orleans. What is true is that the lifestyle in that city was and is shocking. But we are not in a position to speak on behalf of God, and declare unilaterally that He was the Author of a certain disaster.
Let us conclude by listening again to our Lord’s words to the disciples. ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ We are bound to recognise that God is in charge of this world, and that as Creator He is able to raise the winds and calm the winds. Come what may, the life of faith requires this recognition of the majesty of God, His over-ruling providence, as well as His over-ruling judgment. Therefore, why are we afraid?’ Why have we so little faith?