We are scattered by storms, and we are gathered by storms. Our storms may be physical or political, economic or spiritual. Sometimes, we are battered by a nasty confluence of all four. Whatever their nature, storms force us to move.
And Hurricane Sandy certainly moved us.
Yesterday, Carter Conlon, the lead pastor at NYC's Times Square Church, was moved to lead a very different Tuesday evening service. It was billed as an Emergency Broadcast. In a small room, 20 church members joined their pastor for a live video feed.
Pastor Carter had already visited his home in New Jersey. Horrible destruction. But he wasn't overly concerned about that. He knows what it's like to lose everything. He's already watched that happen a few times in his life.
Something else was pressing on his heart.
After Jesus and his disciples had fed the 5,000, they encountered a great storm at sea, one which gave even veteran fishermen pause. This storm likely left its mark on land as well as sea.
I had never considered that.
Perhaps his disciples would have liked to turn around, Conlon said, grab those leftover baskets and hunker down with their own friends and family. Human nature will seek to divide men into camps: us and them. Crises mode means taking care of ourselves.
But Jesus doesn't operate like that. Christ stepped out of the boat and moved toward people in need. And the people recognized Him and ran toward Him because they knew He hadn't come to judge them. He came to love.
And then pastor Conlon posed a question for today's church: what do we look like “on the other side of the storm?” What does the world see?
“Do we move towards the need?”
Storms may force us to move in all sorts of directions. But storms ought not compel us to flee, turn back or grow insular. And certainly we ought not “point fingers” or pour salt on anyone's wounds by “speaking empty vanities”.
Maybe all storms lead to God. But the truest seeking of God, says Conlon, will lead us toward human suffering and need.
It is not enough to be moved by tragic storms. We must move toward them.
Or else we look like castaways, sitting on the wrong side of the storm.