After the storm
Intense atmospheric disturbances come in all shapes and sizes. In the natural word, as Elijah experienced in the wilderness while fleeing from Jezebel and Ahab, we see great winds, earthquakes, firestorms. In our society, we see upheavals when mobs gather, when wars break out...even when small disputes between groups or individuals disrupt the tenuous harmony of community. Storms inevitably arise in life, and they too often break us into pieces. They shatter our lives, fill us with grief and loss and remind us that we are mortal, small and fragile.
Last night, we had a BIG thunderstorm go through our area. Just after midnight, with the windows open, we saw the flashes of lightening and heard/felt the thunder. The rain came hard and fast. We were all awakened from sound sleep by it, and one of the pets was downright frantic. He couldn't settle, and in fact wound up making things worse for everyone by attempting to get onto a dresser, and in doing so, dumping the items on top of it onto the ground with a loud clatter. The theme of the evening? Disruption. It took a while, in the wake of the storm, for everyone to quiet down again...and the truth of the matter is that none of us really were able to get a solid rest in the wake of all that sturm und drang. (sound and fury)
Today's readings acknowledge the reality of storms in our lives, what they can do and what it feels like to come out of them on the other side. For Ahab and Jezebel, the storm clouds brew, break and reset over them now continually as God chastises Israel for its ruler's ongoing apostasy. Elijah knows it, for in the wilderness he winds up encountering God in the quiet after the storms heralding God's advent have passed. It is there that he, and we, meet the holy.
Paul, Demetrius and Alexander know the storms of human approbation as well...when the silversmiths whose trade in statuary of Artemis and her temple is jeopardized by their preaching of Christ is threatened when people turn from her worship (and their business) in order to follow the Gospel. A chaotic mob is stirred up, to the point that reason departs from most of the people present. It takes a level head on the part of a courageous official to break the storm of the assemblies madness open and expose it for what it is, the machinations of a few to incite the many to harm the apostles. It is after that storm passes that we see just how enduring our little story of Good News really is in that it is by that truth that people are made free, even when the tides of human conflict cause waves of violence to break over it, again and again.
It isn't easy to pull life together again after the big storms in our lives cause disruption, disquiet, loss and pain. And yet, as the psalmist reminds us, we have faith in a God who created all things. We can recognize God's presence in the craziness of life, surely; even as we also give thanks for a God who is with us in the quiet after the storms pass. God is with Elijah in the sheer silence after the storms. God is with the church when the mob is disbanded. God is with us, when we take a breath in the wake of life's craziness. We find true consolation when, in perceiving God in the silence after the storm we realize that God in fact has been with us all the time....never departing, never deserting. It was just our worry, distraction, fear and terror that gave us the impression that we were somehow alone, when truly, we are never alone.