Monthly Archives: February 2012

Weather Watching . How about God Watching?

Severe Weather Awareness Week is observed each year during the third week of February in Alabama. Other states are scheduled from now through April to prepare for turbulent spring storms. Alabama is one of the first states targeted by NOAA because it historically has some of the earliest severe weather outbreaks. The scars from last year’s record setting April 27 cluster of EF-5 tornados are still painfully apparent. People pay attention to the weather here.

Whether the topic is severe weather or a normal day’s climatological outlook, weather is a ubiquitous subject. The conversation opener, “How about this weather we’ve been having!” is a cliché` precisely because everyone uses it countless times daily. Local TV stations boast that they report the weather every ten minutes during their morning news shows. Weather, of course, touches every person’s life. We all live and move in the atmosphere that is warm or cold, sunny or rainy, sometimes icy and sometimes parched – the weather.

Jesus noted that his contemporaries – even without mega-watt Doppler weather radar systems – paid close attention to the weather and did basic weather forecasting. He chided them for obsessing over meteorological signs and conditions while being oblivious to profuse evidence of the presence of God. Jesus told his detractors that if they paid as much attention to his ministry and teaching as they did to the weather, perhaps they could gain crucial spiritual insight: “At sunset you say we will have good weather, because the sky is red. {3} And in the morning you say that it will be a rainy day, because the sky is dark and red. You see these signs in the sky and know what they mean. In the same way, you see the things that I am doing now, but you don’t know their meaning.” (Matthew 16:2-3 NCV; see also Luke 12:54-57 for another example Jesus cites of weather watchers’ spiritual inattention.) Weather forecasts are based on extensive observations of climatological data and taking note of the effects of atmospheric changes. Jesus expected his followers to engage their faculties similarly to observe God’s actions in the world and to note the effect God’s presence had in their lives.

Paul appealed to God’s general revelation in common occurrences like weather to call people into closer relationship with God through faith in Jesus. He saw that everything that God has made (and that’s everything that is!) can point us to God’s grace if we pay attention. Paul stated in the opening paragraphs of his letter to people in Rome: “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature.” (Romans 1:20 NLT) One of Paul’s earliest sermons was preached in the Areopagus in Athens to people who did not yet profess faith in Jesus. He invited them to pay attention to the evidence of God’s care and nearness demonstrated in God’s provision of the environment in which we live. Paul assured his audience, ” God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: {28} ‘We live in him. We walk in him. We are in him.'” (Acts 17:27-28a NCV) Undoubtedly, Paul introduced Jesus to his hearers as the incarnation of this God who is always nearer than earth and sky and weather and who brings the life-giving relationship this ubiquitous and grace-full God promised. Paul would have known very well the promise of God through Isaiah: “Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you…. Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.” (Isaiah 55:3-4, 6-7, MSG) An important starting point for this life of faith is simply noticing God’s nearness and goodness in everything, and then proceeding to learn that Jesus culminates it all.

Severe Weather Awareness Week perhaps can provide ample reminders that as we pay attention to the weather and various bulletins and warnings about those natural events, we should pay attention to God who is revealed in them. Just as everyone is touched by the weather, each and every one of us is embraced by God’s ever-present grace. I love the simple hymn of faith I learned in my youth:

In the lightning flash across the sky his mighty power I see

And I know if he can reign on high, his light can shine on me. (Chorus)

When the thunder shakes the mighty hills and trembles every tree

Then I know a God so great and strong can surely harbor me. (Chorus)

When refreshing showers cool the earth and sweep across the sea

Then his rainbow shines within my heart, his nearness comforts me.

(Chorus) I’ve seen it in the lightning, heard it in the thunder, and felt it in the rain.

My Lord is near me all the time, my Lord is near me all the time.

(My Lord Is Near Me All the Time, Barbara F. Gaultney, 1960)

Whenever you think about severe weather preparedness, use it as a reminder to think about God’s presence in your life. Every time you hear a weather report this week, let your thoughts center upon God’s presence, his closeness to you. Share the joy of your sunshiny, successful, triumphant day with God, who is right there with you! In the inclement days of defeat, depression, and drab loneliness, pour your soul out to God, who is with you every step of the way. Even more than the weather, God is near you all the time.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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