Another Post from Pastor R. Jones

Another Post from Pastor R. Jones

A few months back I posted a reflection from my friend, Rev. Randy Jones of Messiah Lutheran Church, Montgomery, AL.  Pastor Jones has written another article which originally appeared in Messiah's newsletter and he was gracious enough to share it with us.  I hope you enjoy it and his reflections.  This post originally appeared in the Messiah Lutheran Church newsletter September 20ll.

Pastor Randy Jones Writes:

Greetings to you all in the beautiful name of Jesus. I’ve been reading again so hang on to your bonnets. I saw the results of a poll in one of my journals this week that gave me pause and then confused me. The title of the poll was “God’s Role in Natural Disasters.” Here are the results for each assertion presented:

God controls everything in the world: 56% agree
Natural disasters are God’s way of testing faith: 40% agree
Natural disasters are a sign from God: 38% agree
God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens: 29% agree
(Christian Century: September 20, 2011; pg. 9)

There are two things about these numbers that bother me. First, the idea that God controls everything in the world makes me wonder why St. Paul would say that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” if God controls everything which includes humans. Second, there is a disparity in the following numbers. If 56% think God is in control, then the following two numbers should also be 56% and the last question would be unintelligible to them given my first assertion.

If God controls everything in the world, then doesn’t it make sense that everyone would be at peace and everyone would be prospering; there would be no sickness or hunger in the world. If God controls everything, then you and I were not created in the image of God and the writer of Genesis would be wrong; after all we are capable of love, we are creative, and we are able to make choices both right and wrong. Put succinctly we would be automatons. So my point here is that while God is omnipotent, God has chosen to limit his influence in this world.

That, however, does not mean that God is not here in the world with us. According to the creation accounts of Genesis it is God’s creative Spirit that has infused the cosmos with order and life. It is only by God’s presence that the creation is sustained and continues to exist. All of this despite Stephen Hawking’s position (sorry I had to say that).

As for natural disasters, we have all heard them called “acts of God.” That is an unfortunate way of speaking about things that happen as a result of this marvelously complex world on which we live. Every natural disaster is only a disaster for humans who happen to be in the way of weather, fire, or earthquakes. All of these things we call natural disasters benefit the very life of the Earth.

For instance, if lightening did not exist our atmosphere would not be breathable, floods deposit new fertile soil in low lying lands, earthquakes are the result of the shifting of the tectonic plates which allows magma to come to the surface and create new land, etc. etc. etc. Unfortunately, there are so many of us humans that we too often find ourselves in the path of these “disasters”.

Are natural disasters a sign from God? In a sense yes. They are a sign that God’s creation is still alive and well. We should thank God everyday for that fact because if these things didn’t happen then the Earth would be dead and lifeless like Mars and we would not exist.

Finally, if we are to believe that natural disasters are punishment then we have to ignore Jesus’ reference to the tower of Siloam incident in the Gospel of St. Luke. Listen to this.

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” (St. Luke 13:1-5)

It’s pretty clear that Jesus puts the kibosh on the idea that God punishes sinners in this way.

Everyone is at the mercy of this world and its events; some caused by nature and some caused by human pride and arrogance. Jesus will not allow us to blame his Father for these things. I also want to add another reason I don’t believe God punishes us for our sins by sending natural disasters upon us. If God punished us in this way, it would mean that Jesus’ death and resurrection were for nothing and mean nothing. It would mean that Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t free us from the eternal consequences of our sins. It would mean that we are still dead in our sins and unforgiven, and yet that forgiveness is pronounced by Jesus while he is on the cross.

I personally am not interested in questioning something that God has been clear about for almost 2000 years. I take Jesus at his word when he says, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (St. Matthew 26:28)

So, my sisters and brothers, there you have it. We live on a planet that is alive, thanks be to God. God gave us a brain with which to think and learn. When we tempt disaster by building our homes on the Gulf Coast, that’s our fault not God’s because we know that a hurricane WILL come in the future. We know that tornadoes are going to touch down here in Alabama; we need to have a plan for that instance and also know that we can’t plan for every possible situation. So, we do what we can do to make sure we are safe in this world, and trust God with our lives when we die. In the meantime Jesus tells us, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.” (St. Matthew 6:34)

What then are we to make of all this business? Well, when we say that God is love, that means God loves us enough to leave us to our own devices. Out of God’s great love for us we are given the freedom to make choices for ourselves. God told Joshua to tell the people of Israel that, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

When we say that God is love, we know that means God loves us enough to give his Son for us and to us. Jesus is our proof of God’s great love for us. When we choose Jesus’ will over our own will, we live not only today but forever. We are able to live Christ’s life today simply because we know that his life is forever, and living our Lord’s life means we live not for ourselves but for others. In this way we know the abundant life Jesus promised to us. When we know that God has given his Son to us, we can never believe that God punishes through natural events.

This world is most certainly a difficult place in which to live, but God is with us in the person of Jesus the crucified and risen Christ. Every Sunday God gives us the broken body and spilled blood of our Lord Jesus to sustain us in this life. God gives us our sisters and brothers to accompany us in our journey. Life, my brothers and sisters, is in the journey so let us live it faithfully and joyfully. Let us enjoy this life with God as we work to bring God’s shalom to this world.

May God continue to bless you and keep you always.
Shalom Pr. Randy

For more information about Pastor Randy Jones visit Messiah's website at


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