We live at the foot of Mount Diablo, “Devil’s Mountain,” so when billowing smoke rose beyond the peak this last Sunday, we watched, waited, and checked Internet updates regularly. The fire raged on the other side, swallowing the dry brown grass, but only 10% of the fire was contained as darkness fell. It continued to grow, it seemed, far faster than it was being contained. By Monday the area burned had doubled to nearly 4,000 acres, and the containment figure was 20%. New crews arrived from distant parts, and planes and choppers flew overhead, dropping, we knew, waters to kill the inferno.
Horses were rescued, folks evacuated. Fortunately, no lives or homes were lost. And the fires never reached our home, never crested the mountain.
Not so fortunate were residents in Colorado along the Front Range this last week. As my son and his family were evacuated from their home in North Boulder by the National Guard, they watched a power station explode in the darkness. Roads were collapsing, bridges swept away. My son and family were safe, and the house too, on higher ground, is still there, at least so we hope and pray.
Fires and floods. No earthquakes yet, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. Mother nature isn’t always a nice or predictable mother. She can be ugly, brutal, uncaring. No matter what the Romantic poets thought about flowers and sunsets and ruins, nature is heartless. We build houses to protect ourselves from her wrath. We invent ways to light the dark when the sun no longer shines. We lay miles of underground pipe to allow easy access to fresh water that will miraculously arrive through faucets into sinks, tubs, and showers. We construct elaborate plumbing systems and dig septic tanks, so that with the push of a handle all uncleanness is flushed down a drain. Out of sight, out of mind.
We have watched other parts of the country suffer floods and fires and tornadoes, but this week, at least in California and Colorado, we experienced nature’s wrath firsthand. It is not the first time, for there have been floods and fires here before. But we are reminded again that we are little creatures. We think we are big, but we are small. In the twinkling of an eye, all can be burned, all can be flooded.
The fires have been doused here on Devil’s Mountain. But the folks in Colorado are not yet “out of the woods,” to use an apt expression. When we want to say we are safe, we say we are “out of the woods,” we are out of that natural wild world where danger and darkness lurk, where floods and fires threaten.
So this morning in church, as I fell on my knees before the sturdy altar and its sacred tabernacle, I gave thanks to God for God himself. There is nothing certain in this world but God and his great love for us in the midst of all this uncertainty. This certainty – this rock-solid faith – is the foundation of the Church, one not built on sand, one not swept away by raging waters or wild fires. And how do we know this? Because of a man who lived two thousand years ago who said he was God, and proved it by walking on water, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead. And finally, conquering death with his own resurrection.
In today’s Scripture reading we listened to one of my favorite passages of Saint Paul:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Rooted and grounded in love. Indeed, we are so rooted and grounded in God’s love that the natural world in which we find ourselves will not have the last say, will not, in the end, conquer.
The breadth, and length, and depth, and height… of the love of Christ… which passeth knowledge… filled with all the fullness of God. These are words of hope, words of certainty, rock-solid.
These are words that are super-natural, other-worldly, and of this I am glad.