Faith not to command the winds but to endure them

Maybe I don’t have enough faith. Maybe if I just claimed my spiritual authority, I could do more good. After all, I am a pastor; I’m somehow supposed to be closer to the secret powers of the universe than mere mortals. I mean, what good is ordination if you can’t pray away the bad and pray in the good?

My golfing partners sometimes chide me for not using my powers to chase away the rain when it threatens our game. My standard response: “I’m in sales, not management.” I can’t control the weather; I can only weather it like everyone else.

Apparently, a Rowlett woman doesn’t share my reticence. On the night the ill-fated tornadoes hit just east of Dallas this past Dec. 26, she says she took charge of the storm in the name of God.

“We actually went outside and started commanding the winds, because God had given us authority over the winds, the airways. And we just began to command this storm not to hit our area. We spoke to the storm and said, ‘Go to unpopulated places.’ It did exactly what we said to do, because God gave us the authority to do that.”

Well, not exactly. The storm didn’t hit her house, but it didn’t miss populated areas altogether. It killed 12 people and damaged more than 1,000 buildings, including churches, by the way. So, the authority of all that spiritual command and control failed, unless it was only meant to divert the deadly funnel from her neighborhood.

But what of the claim that God has given us authority over the winds? It surely comes from the story in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus was on a boat out on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples when a sudden squall kicked up the waters and threatened to capsize them. Jesus was awakened from his nap by scared followers and commanded the winds and the waves “Peace, be still.” And they were stilled. Then Jesus questioned the fear of the disciples and urged more faith instead.

Somehow, the weather-commanding woman took that to mean that God had given her the same powers as Jesus to direct the storm. If she had enough faith, she could tap into the power of heaven in order to bring peace on earth.

Let’s give her credit for wanting to maximize the power of faith and for wanting to divert the storm to unpopulated areas. These are not unholy impulses. But we ought to question the spiritual premise of whether one’s faith, if great enough, might grant such power over nature.

God is not a wonder worker waiting for us to say the magic words in order to break open the divine box of tricks to astound or advantage us. The day before the storm we celebrated Christmas, which recalls God becoming one of us and thus being subject to all the whims of winds and woes that we are. The Lord of nature took on the harness of nature in order to heal it from within, not in order to harness it for special privileges by the faithful.

Which leads to the question: What’s faith for, then?

Faith is not the power to command the world to serve our interest; it is the power to serve the interest of the world — whether the weather brings chaos or calm.