I was able to be home today worshipping at Salem Lutheran. That means that I was also able to help out a bit for worship on piano. Our organist had the idea to play and sing “God Bless America” as the postlude today acknowledging Independence Day in the United States on Tuesday. She invited me to join and help lead the song on piano while she played it on the organ. I think it went well.
But what caught me was what happened right after we ended. There was a big boom of thunder. We have had quite the number of storms come through here lately, and perhaps it’s not unusual. It is still my first full year here in Eastern Nebraska, so I don’t have much to compare it to. Though I am in awe of the way everything is so green here still this summer.
When the rain comes in Nebraska, the sky opens. It pours. There is no hiding from it. If you are outside, you are going to get wet. It comes, and then it goes. Perhaps it’s a reminder of our baptisms, washing us and making us clean.
Just like this morning’s storm, before and during the rain, the thunder wrestles and booms in the background. I wonder, what if anything is God saying today?
Are we being made new? Are we being told to open our eyes, hearts, minds, and souls? Is it time to wake up, and if so, to what?
This past week I was jarred out of bed by what felt like the house shaking. Were we having an earthquake in Nebraska? As far as I know there isn’t fracking or drilling here like in Oklahoma causing a midwest quake. No, we came to discover jack hammers and chain saws as a crew was here early helping prepare the ground for a new foundation for a utility shed for the church, and helping fix the parsonage driveway. We are grateful for the diligence, though it was a little strange of a way to wake up the other day.
I am thinking about the rain, the thunder, and waking up today because a few months ago I had a vision. At least I think it was a vision. I think I shared it with my spiritual director and we talked about it some. Basically, one night earlier this year, I woke up after having seen a glowing presence. It made me simultaneously at peace and terrified. I thought it was Jesus. But this presence said, “God is here.” It said it over and over, until basically I woke up.
Immediately I woke up my wife, and together we walked throughout the house. I don’t know what I expected or hoped to find. But after realizing I probably missed the meaning of the message, I settled back into the bed and told Allison about what I had seen and experienced.
“God is here,” coincidentally was our opening hymn in worship this morning. Perhaps it’s why I thought about sharing this today.
What are signs or experiences that remind you of God’s presence? Perhaps it’s the shaking of the thunder? Perhaps its the stranger at the door whom we are faced with whether we welcome or not? (Jesus was pretty clear about what it means to welcome someone in the gospel of Matthew 10:40-42 which I heard preached about today.)
When the rain falls and the thunder shakes, perhaps it’s just God’s creation being alive and doing what it does. Perhaps. Or, perhaps sometimes it’s a sign that God is here, and God is up to something. If so, what might it be? And if so, how might we be called to be a part of it?
On this Fourth of July weekend, as many of us hear the booms of fireworks and perhaps not all the natural booms of thunder, as we celebrate, I wonder what God might be up to? In light of today’s gospel, I wonder, how are we being called to show welcome to everyone? What is the cup of cool water that we are being called to share?
I know I am not always the most welcoming person, and that’s perhaps why I need the rain more than ever, to be reminded of my baptism and the promises made in it. To remember that as a Child of God, I am claimed and loved. But also, as a Child of God, I am called to welcome without qualification. Maybe that’s the message of the Fourth of July?
I wrote last week about the Statue of Liberty, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I’ll leave you with this question, how are you doing as a bearer of welcome? How are we doing as a community and nation when it comes to welcome?
I could give you my answer. But I think you probably already know it.
Again, that’s why I need the rain to fall, to remind me and wash me clean, calling me to change. It’s why I need the thunder to shake me out of my comfort and complacency. And I need visions such as the one I think I had a few months ago to wake me up from lethargy, and draw me closer to wonder and ask, “what might you be up to God?” And from there, to follow and do likewise.