God’s not so gentle wake-up?

Over the last twenty-four hours New Yorkers have been shutting up the windows, stocking up the supplies, including water, and clearing terraces in readiness for hurricane Sandy’s coming ashore tonight. Winds of more than 75mph are forecast together with heavy rains over the next day or two. Already rising seas and waterways surrounding Manhattan are flooding the low-lying parts of the city. 

The subway has been closed since 7:00PM last night (Sunday) and the regular sounds of sirens have all but ceased. Eerily, the city is quiet. With many stores closed, traffic is light and only a few people are out on the streets. Even the Stock Exchange is closed because of what is reckoned to be the largest Atlantic storm on record. In the face of the power of this weather system, wise leaders have ensured that New York, the city that never sleeps, is put ‘on hold’.

Times like this remind us not just of the tremendous power of weather – the wind and the sea – but of the awesome power of the creator who made them. 

It gives us pause to ask, ‘What greater powers could God exert?’

We might also ask whether God works through the power of the storm to wake us up, not so gently, to life’s larger realities. Asking this is not saying that God does not care about us, or what we might be going through: he does. Psalm 46 speaks of God being “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”.

But the Psalm goes on, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It is a word to everyone to stop and consider. Jesus echoed this thought when he warned us to turn back to God (Luke 13:1-5).

During a hurricane, wisdom tells us to stay inside. Compassion for the many who will suffer directly because of this massive storm calls us to pray that God in his mercy will hold back the worst of the storm’s power. Grace calls us to be ready to do what we can to assist those in need. Above all, we need to use this opportunity as a wake-up call – to sort out our relationship with God and to order our lives, our values and our priorities in the light of the reality that God is not only there but is the Lord.

John G. Mason is the founding Rector of Christ Church New York City
A Gospel-focused Anglican Church