I used to live on an old farm place that had a little concrete building about 50 feet from the house. I think it was about four feet high and slightly dug into the ground.
The concrete had gotten very crumbly and the floor was just loose gravel. Most of the time my brother and sister and I used it for a playhouse or pretend jail or whatever else our imaginations wanted it to be. But we knew what it was really for: It was a storm shelter.
Every time we get one of those big thunderstorms or when I see one of those tornado watch bulletins going across the TV screen I remember that old storm shelter. We felt so much safer. We had security and protection in just knowing that we had a place to go that was close and strong. The storms were still there. It didn't change the weather. But we had shelter and everybody needs a storm shelter.
As adults we know that not all storms and threats are about the weather. We know about emotional and spiritual storms. In many ways we have had a year of stormy times with the events of Sept. 11, the anthrax scares, tragic stories of child abductions, the woes of Wall Street that touch income and retirement plans, the corporate scandals, the Middle East tensions and, locally, our Potlatch closing.
So what is the storm shelter in all of this? Are there storm shelters for the soul?
I think of two gospel stories where Jesus meets frightened disciples in storms. In one, he comes to them, walking on the churning sea. In another he is already with them but is asleep in the boat and the disciples wonder if he cares or knows what is going on. (Maybe you know that feeling.)
But in both cases Jesus says to his followers, "Fear not," and he calms the storm. The message is clear. Jesus Christ is our calm and assurance in the storm. The storms still come but the disciples are not "sunk" or overwhelmed. Jesus is the storm shelter.
As we approach the anniversary of Sept. 11 will it be an invitation again to remember our greater storm shelters of faith that so many of us ran toward in its wake? It was a way of getting inside the shelter of God's word, beneath the shelter of God's wings. As the church today we continue to be the body of Christ, embodying the presence of God, entering the storms of life as Jesus did, going out to people in their fear, reaching out with care and helping to overcome the emotional winds and the social forces that threaten to overwhelm us.
We, too, are commissioned, in Christ's name, to speak the strong word, "Peace, be still."
So stay close to your storm shelter. Continue in the promises of God, the community of faith; to worship, love, and serve together. Most important, know that whether the storms are meteorological, psychological, social or economical; whether the storms are some blast of cancer, or grief, addiction or some unexpected twists in our families or in the nation, we know the One who is "Our shelter from the stormy blast."
Grace and peace in Christ.
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