October 9, 2016, The Perfect Storm
Some of you may remember a film released sixteen years ago—called “The Perfect Storm”—starring George Clooney.
The movie was based on a non-fiction book of the same title—which tells the story of the Andrea Gail—a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea during the “Perfect Storm” of 1991.
When the small craft set sail—the sea was already getting rough—and within a few days the storm developed into a powerful hurricane.
The experienced captain—played by Clooney—tried every trick he knew to escape the wind and waves—but was unable to do so.
In spite of a desperate rescue attempt by the Coast Guard—the Andrea Gail was capsized by a huge tidal wave—and went down with all hands aboard.
The movie concludes with the captain’s widow giving a moving eulogy at the memorial service.
I thought about “The Perfect Storm” this week—while listening to the news reports about Hurricane Matthew.
For quite a while now—our world has been sailing through troubled waters.
In recent years we have been threatened by many man-made and natural disasters:
Floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, climate change, the economy, the stock market, jobs, housing, shootings, riots, terrorism, and political instability.
All are disturbing the peace—from Syria to Afghanistan to the Ukraine—and right here at home.
Tensions between the police and the African American community are at an all-time high.
And we are discovering that we haven’t made nearly as much progress as we had hoped—in achieving reconciliation between the races—and establishing Liberty, Justice, and Equal Rights for all.
Then—there is the current divisive presidential campaign.
And on top of it all—another destructive hurricane!
In a way—the movie is a metaphor for the human condition in the first two decades of the 21st Century.
All these troubles seem to be converging upon us at once—coming together to form “The Perfect Storm!”
We can only hope that the International Ship of State will not suffer the fate of the Andrea Gail—and go down with all hands on board!
Right away I think of two Biblical stories that are relevant.
First of all—there is Noah and the Ark.
According to the Book of Genesis—God created a peaceful world—where everyone lived in harmony.
But starting with Adam and Eve—and continuing with their sons Cain and Abel—that harmony was shattered.
Things got worse with every generation—until God resolved to destroy it all with a Great Flood.
Only Noah and his family—and the animals he brought aboard the Ark—were saved.
God protected them—and kept them from being overwhelmed by the wind and waves.
So the human race was given a new start—a new opportunity to live in peace!
The other Biblical story that comes to mind is Jesus Calming the Storm.
You will recall that Jesus and the Disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee in a small boat.
A storm blew up unexpectedly—and threatened to swamp the boat.
The Disciples thought all was lost—and began to cry out to Jesus—who was sleeping on a pillow in the stern.
Jesus awakened—and said to the wind and waves: “Peace—Be still!”
And immediately—the storm was stilled.
Afterwards—Jesus’ only comment was:
“Why were you afraid?—oh ye of little faith!”
In both of these stories, God’s people are threatened by “The Perfect Storm.”
But God is still in control.
God hasn’t forgotten about the human beings he created.
God has not abandoned the ones he loves.
And by God’s power—the danger is overcome—and the Storm is stilled.
Perhaps we need to remember these stories—as we face “The Perfect Storm” that threatens our world!
There are some who would look at the world’s troubles—and the grave dangers we face today—and attempt to lay blame.
“God is punishing us for our sins”—they would say.
“If only we would repent—and return to God”—they say—“things would get better.”
It is certainly true that humanity has sinned.
And it is reasonable to think that—if we were more faithful to God’s Commandments—things would get better.
But I disagree that God is punishing us.
That is not the God I know.
That is not the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ—who so loves the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son!
God is always reaching out to us with his forgiveness—and trying to save us by his Grace.
God would not try to destroy us—by deliberately bringing upon us “The Perfect Storm.”
Rather—God has done everything in his power to rescue and redeem the human race!
But that is not to say that God has nothing to do with the Storm.
God allows the Storm to threaten us.
God allows us to face the fury of the wind and the waves.
Not in order to punish us—but (perhaps) to force us to respond.
To force us to put aside our differences—and settle our disputes—and work together for the good of all.
Through the Storm—God is calling men and women everywhere—of all races and nations and cultures—to stand together—and solve our common problems.
God is also calling us to have Faith—to put our Trust in Him.
Only by Loving God—and Loving one another—can we restore the world to the harmony that God intended.
Only by helping one another—and serving one another—can God’s original dream for humanity come true!
What God asks of us is not difficult to understand.
The prophet Micah said it long ago:
“God has shown you, oh mortal, what is good.
“And what is it that the Lord requires of you?
“To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
To act justly—to love mercy—and to walk humbly with our God.
That is what God requires of us.
That is how we are to face the Storm.
That is how harmony and peace will be restored.
When the warnings were going out over radio and TV about Hurricane Mathew—someone posted a video online of Bob Dylan singing his song “It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
Perhaps you remember that song as I do—from 1963.
“O where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
“And where have you been, my darling young one?
“I saw a newborn baby—with wild wolves all around it.
“I saw a highway of diamonds—with nobody on it.
“I saw a black branch—with blood that kept dripping.
“I saw a white ladder—all covered with water.
“I saw guns and sharp swords—in the hands of young children.
“I saw a white man—who walked a black dog.
“I heard the sound of a thunder—that roared out a warning.
“I heard the roar of a wave—that would drown the whole world.
Then comes the chorus:
“It’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard—it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall!”
Bob Dylan was a prophet in his own right—and a master of metaphor—who still speaks eloquently to the troubles we face.
“The Perfect Storm” of poverty and hatred and injustice and violence is indeed a “hard rain” that’s “gonna fall.”
In fact—the rain is already falling on us now—threatening to “drown the whole world.”
But God has not abandoned us.
God has not given up on us.
In the midst of the Storm—God is calling us to come together.
God is calling us to put aside our differences—and work together for the good of all.
Above the roar of the wind and waves, we can hear the voice of Our Savior saying:
Then he turns to us and says:
“Why are you afraid?—oh ye of little faith!
“Act justly—love mercy—and walk humbly with your God.”
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