Pop quiz – remember the great eclipse of 2017? You remember, it was in all the papers…
Seriously, of course we remember it – after all, it was only five weeks ago. We witnessed one of those rare moments that stir excitement and imagination. And it won’t happen again, at least in the United States, until 2024, and then not again until 2045. If I life to be 85, I will only see two more total eclipses. That’s makes it quite remarkable.
But since then. Since the eclipse, wow! Harvey, Irma, Maria – devastating Texas, Florida, the Caribbean. And earthquakes – three of them – in Mexico. Doesn’t all that make the eclipse an almost distant memory?
More importantly, what in the world is happening?
For some, these events have provided the proof that the end is near. In fact, one so-called Christian prognosticator scoured the Bible, figured out all the hidden meanings, calculated the dates, and the declared that he had it pegged. September 23rd.
Oops! Not this time…
But while I can pretty much dismiss predictions of our world’s demise based on a really faulty reading of the Bible, I can’t ignore the reality of these overwhelming acts of nature that profoundly impact life. And while you and I are on the sidelines for hurricanes and earthquakes (this time anyway), they still make a difference, and not just adding a dime or two to the price of gas. They make a difference because we witness an awesome power that is destructive and does not discriminate. If you are in its path, you are its victim.
Of course, while the hurricanes and the earthquakes get all the press, there are other disasters out there. The infant victim of SIDS; the young adult accident victim; the children caught up in a broken marriage; the family struggling to pay bills; the nursing home resident feeling forgotten; the cancer patient wondering if this begins a painful, downward spiral. All disasters in their own right, and all threatening to make someone a victim.
Nature…conflicts…illness…decisive twists of fate…even simple, everyday life…just too much to handle.
And yet, in the midst of the past five weeks, I’ve been reflecting on two small, simple moments. The first came from Houston, from Harvey. Did you hear about the guy who seems to be of rather simple means and limited resources, and who was concerned about the family piano? He returned to his home, still with three feet of water in the house, to see how the piano was. And there, surrounded by flood waters, he played the piano.
You can check out the story right here: time.com/4924517/houston-man-piano-texas-floods/
And then, a few days later, on Sunday, September 3rd, I headed off to church, and in the morning sun, the remains of morning dew highlighted the almost perfect spider web on our planter in the front yard. As Rebecca and I started down the street we saw another web, glistening as the sun struck the dew on the web, this time on the mailbox. And then we saw another…and another…and another. All the way to church we sought out, and we found, these momentary glimpses of beauty. Simple, yet profound examples of the handiwork of nature.
Hurricanes and earthquakes rage, yet music and glistening webs also speak.
Now, let’s keep this in perspective – in the right perspective. A few notes on a partially submerged piano, and the glistening of spider webs hardly make up for the destructive power of hurricanes and earthquakes. They don’t, because they can’t. But they also don’t, because they don’t need to.
Music and glistening beauty are not what life is about. They are intriguing, they are wondrous, they are even perhaps a bit magical. But they are not life. Not by themselves. Instead, they are signs. They point us to something more. They point us to life.
But the life they point us to is not merely a pretty scene or a poignant moment. Instead, these moments are brief glimpses that remind us that there is more than death, destruction, chaos, and tragedy. They remind us that God is at work, somewhere, somehow.
But where? And how?
Right here, in the midst of hurricanes and earthquakes, broken relationships and broken dreams. Even as grief and sorrow hold us tightly, and fear and uncertainty take their toll. While the grind of every day life grinds us down, God is at work – right here!
And how? In Jesus. Plain and simple. In Jesus, in his death and resurrection, accomplished 2000 years ago, yet nonetheless right here – God is at work in our lives. God is at work bringing life, hope, and most of all, a future, and with a future, we have confidence. Not in ourselves, not even in the world around us, but in God’s promises.
We have that future because in his death and resurrection Jesus destroys the powers that threaten us, including the power of death. Even as the world around us seems to be falling apart, even as we wonder if the world really is coming to an end, we nonetheless have confidence in the future, because that future is in the hands of Jesus.
And that takes us back to the words of Scripture. While some read the Bible, desperately seeking clues to mysteries and hidden messages, we read the Bible differently. Not as a book of rules, or advice on now to live the good life, or a roadmap to success. Instead, Scripture is the revelation of God’s action in our world, proclaiming to us again and again that it is God who brings hope – and God who assures our future!
So enjoy the music, even the spider webs. Enjoy the small moments of wonder and joy that brighten our lives. Know that God is present, that the sometimes ugliness of life is not all there is.
But know too that there is something bigger at play. There is the cross and the empty tomb. There is hope and a future. There is Jesus.