Excerpt from I Kings 19:11-12
“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”
Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell
Benjamin Franklin was baptized at my church on the day of his birth in 1706. Five decades later, the pastor of the church would denounce him as a heretic. Why? For inventing the lighting rod.
See, Rev. Prince said Ben was trying to “control the artillery of heaven.” God’s arrows: that’s what the Psalmist called lightning, and Prince agreed. He wasn’t alone, then or now.
Elijah, however, learned that God is not in the storm, but in the moment following. The terrible pause after the storm when the time is ripe to ask, “What are we to do now? What can we learn from this?” When the people decide what meaning to make of what’s happened. When God whispers into the silence, and tells us something about the future.
Twenty years ago tomorrow, lightning struck the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station in western Massachusetts. The incident ignited a movement among neighbors who feared what might happen if a truly cataclysmic event were to occur. The plant was eventually decommissioned under the neighbors’ pressure, and the group they started is still advocating for safety around nuclear plants.
Lightning strikes. Tornadoes whirl. Earthquakes bring other nuclear plants to their knees. Elijah knows this: God is not in them, but in the moment afterward when people of good faith pray, “What now?”
Oh God, you whispered the lightning rod to Ben. You whispered a movement to the people around Yankee Rowe. Grant that the next time I pass through a storm, I might listen for that same whisper. Amen.
About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell is Associate Minister of Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the just-published Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ.
Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; [the Lord] upholds the orphan and the widow.”
– Psalm 146:7-9
“I trace the rainbow through the rain and see the promise is not in vain.”
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