In the middle of our visit to the States, Jack was going to fly back from Minneapolis to Boston late on a Saturday afternoon and then we were going to drive straight to New Jersey in time for church the next morning.
Earlier that week, on Tuesday, my father pronounced that he wasn’t going to church on Sunday. There was a hurricane coming and he wasn’t going to risk the roads. Even though my father was a weatherman during World War II, I thought he was overreacting just a tad. It was a full five days before the hurricane and I assumed that before the weekend, the storm would change course or fade away.
Wednesday, Jack flew off to Minneapolis. I read the weather update in the newspaper. The forecast hadn’t changed. Neither had my reaction. I still expected the hurricane would disappear. Surely the fears of gloom and doom were being exaggerated by bored weather forecasters and journalists who loved a good story. On Thursday, the forecast was the same. I still thought the storm would blow over.
On Friday afternoon, with the sun shining and the sky blue, I checked the forecast on the internet. The storm was still heading towards North Carolina, and was predicted to hit New Jersey on Saturday night. Suddenly, the plan to drive down then didn’t sound inviting to me. I wanted to escape the wrath of the hurricane. I called Jack and suggested that he try to change his flight to Philadelphia instead of Boston. I could drive down earlier and meet him there. Within an hour, he had changed his flight and I was driving south.
All along the northeast, people were preparing for the storm. Airports were closed. The New York subway system was shut down. People went to the store to stock up on food and candles. Bathtubs were filled with water. Other people were evacuated to safer ground.
No one had to twist my arm to get me to change my plans. I willingly left 24 hours early because I believed the forecast. I knew the storm might weaken or head in a different direction, but I didn’t want to chance it. Plain and simple, I didn’t want to die.
It so happens I’ve been thinking about hell and God’s judgment in recent months. I’ve realized that I like the idea of sharing God’s good news with people, but I don’t like sharing His bad news. I want the weather forecast always to be for sun and warmth. I want the storm to blow out to sea. I keep hoping that all of the passages in God’s word where it talks about His judgment and coming wrath are overstatements. I don’t want anyone to die.
But the spiritual forecast of Jesus was for a storm of judgment.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division…. He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”
Luke 12:49-51, 54-56
When I look up and see a blue sky, it’s hard to believe that in a few hours and massive storm is going to come and wreck havoc. But if I trust the weatherman, I’m going to be wise and do whatever I can to escape.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”