If you have not asked this question, or heard somebody else ask this question lately, chances are that you or somebody around you has at least thought this at some point. In what is now being called the worst natural disaster in South Dakota History, the home and business damaging deluge we received in the last part of September is just the latest in a long line of weather disasters in 2019. Besides even the tornado that caused significant damage in busy areas of Sioux Falls, this year has been one of the most difficult farming years in memory. The unusually wet conditions of the spring meant that very few farmers in the area managed to plant a full crop of corn or beans. And those who did manage to plant what they wanted are now wondering if they will be able to harvest, again, because of unusually wet conditions. On top of that is road damage, bridges washed out, and the list goes on and on. The devastating spring flood for our Nebraska neighbors seems like a distant memory, but that was this year, too. Who knows what the fall and winter weather will be?
Most years we are praying for a nice shot of rain. This year, we have so much water that we’ve never really even dried off after the spring snowmelt.
Just what is God thinking? Why is He doing this to us?
I have an answer for you, but you won’t like it. I don’t even like it. The answer is this: I don’t know. I really don’t know because God doesn’t say. And we can’t say more about Him than He does about Himself. But I know this – God does incredible things with water. In our baptism liturgy, we pray, “Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.”
All water? Yes, all water. Even the water that filled so many homes and businesses in September. Even the water that prevented the spring planting and might prevent a fall harvest. Water is a reminder of baptism, and baptism is a reminder of the flood of Noah. In that flood, water both destroyed the old creation but also saved God’s faithful. In our own flooding, we see the awesome power of water that washes out bridges and causes awful damage to homes and crops. But we are also reminded of God’s faithfulness who, even though we forget Him, allows the rain to fall and the crops to grow and the sun to shine. Were it not for Him, we would have years like this every year – and even a lot worse! For we certainly deserve nothing but present and eternal punishment. But God is merciful and just, and in His mercy He gives us what we don’t deserve – the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
So years like this can teach us at least one thing: We are certainly not in control of the weather, or even our own lives. When disasters pile up, and the losses mount, the proper response is to repent. Repent! Repent of wanting and trying to be your own God. Repent of thinking you are in control of everything (or anything!). Repent of not being thankful for God who gives us all good things. And when the sun comes out and the ground dries? Give thanks to God for His continued mercy and care.
Take heart. All waters point us to Baptism, and Baptism points us to Jesus, and Jesus points us to His suffering and death, and His suffering and death points us to the forgiveness of our sins. And there is no greater comfort than that.
Pastor Thomas Brown