Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Season of Creation, 3: Storm Sunday
15 September 2019
[ video ]
As you will have already noticed, in church today we are paying attention to the theme of storms: real ones.
We are not talking about personal crises, tough times in relationships, or ‘storms in a teacup’.
All those are real enough, and painful as well.
On this third Sunday in the Season of Creation we are talking about those wild weather events that trigger emergency alerts, threaten to destroy homes, and can even take away our lives.
Season of Creation
If you have not been here for the last couple of weeks (or even longer) you may need a brief heads up.
During September we are observing a special series of services, the season of creation, as we explore various aspects of the web of life; that complex and subtle web of relationships between all of us and all of existence.
So far we have had Ocean Sunday and Fauna & Flora Sunday, with the focus today turning to storms. Next Sunday we will go bigger with the Cosmos as our chosen theme. On the final Sunday of the month, we wrap up the series with the blessing of the animals in the Cathedral gardens at 10.30am.
Bring your creatures great and small that day …
Storms have been in the news lately.
Last weekend the focus on the fires really grabbed all our attention, but the week before that we were watching with awe as a massive storm—Hurricane Dorian—bore down on the Bahamas and then headed towards the US east coast.
We have had some massive cyclones in this part of the world as well as seeing them active in other places.
Right now, when it is all so dry, we are desperate for rain. But we can also remember those times when the rain and the wind have been so bad that we just wanted them to stop.
In their own way, even the fires of last weekend were storms, as their ferocity and speed were partly driven by the winds that were blowing so strongly.
There is a huge difference between a fire on a calm day and a fire when a storm wind is whipping things up.
We might admire the power of a storm from a safe distance, but they have a way of putting us in our place. They remind us that we are small-scale life forms, and very vulnerable to major natural events.
- Cyclones / hurricanes
- Hail storms
- Lightning storms
- Tornadoes and twisters
- Snowstorms and blizzards
Spirit, wind and breath
In ancient times we see that people were fascinated by the dynamic relationship between breath, wind and spirit.
In fact, often we find the same words being used in the ancient Hebrew or Greek text, and only the context telling us which English term to choose.
Perhaps the classic example is in Genesis 1, the great creation poem which opens the Bible.
There we read that the “spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters”
וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם
wᵉrûaḥ ʾᵉlōhim mᵉraḥep̱eṯ ʿal-pᵉne hammāyı̂m
Depending on the Bible translation you pick up, that line may be translated as:
KJV: And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
NJB: with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.
JPS: and a wind from God sweeping over the water
NRSV margin: while a mighty wind swept over the face of the waters.
In the next chapter of Genesis, God will breathe into the nostrils of the new Earth creature that has been created. When the breath of God comes into the Earthling, then the first human is alive and has become a living spirit.
This life force that we know as storm we also meet:
- in the first breath of a newborn child
- in a pleasant summer breeze
- in a bracing blast of winter wind, and
- in the destructive power of a cyclone
As we baptise Alexis and Hudson this morning we celebrate the life force which hovered over the waters of creation at the beginning of time, and we open ourselves to the eternal power of God who can be gentle as a dove or fierce as a storm.
We need to learn to live in sync with this spirit/storm, while Alexis and Hudson look to us to show them how to do that, how to bend with the wind that is God at work in our lives.
There is a beautiful hymn that draws all these threads together so very nicely, and since we are not singing it in this service let me read it to you now as we say YES to the wind that blows where it will and transforms all who it touches:
She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.
She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
she nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.
She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained,
For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
she is the key opening the scriptures,
enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.
Enemy of Apathy
John L. Bell (1949–) and Graham Maule (1958–)