A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road...
We enter Holy Week, aware that this is global pandemic. Those who die in Italy, Iran, and Wuhan are no longer foreigners to us. We remember the crowds and know that we are all in this together. No one is isolated from the compassion of Jesus.
If we were with Elijah on Mount Sinai, we would look for God to stand between us and the earthquake, wind, and fire. When natural disasters strike, we expect God to stop the hurricane, or at least divert it so that it only hits islands without tourists. We expect the wind not to blow off the roof of the church. We expect wildfires to stay away from our city’s suburban sprawl. In general, we expect God to disrespect nature, like we do. When the Old Testament borrows from the destructive power of nature to describe our God, we find it quaint. We are not willing, as Elijah was, to pray for a drought to come to our land so that our leaders would be humbled (or at least deal with climate change). We are not willing to be driven out into the wilderness and become dependent upon crows for our food supply, as Elijah was. Face it, we don’t cultivate in ourselves the God-awareness that we see in the people of the Bible.
Elijah on Sinai gets earthquake, wind, and fire. Sounds like the Weather Channel this spring. The prophet doesn’t find God on the Weather Channel, but in the soft, "sound of silence" that follows. It's like looking for the holy in the static that used to exist between the channels of our pre-HD TVs. We all tend to look for God is the traumatic. We expect God to do a miracle and prevent the Tsunami from hitting Japan. We expect the tornado to blow around the good churches of Oklahoma. We expect the fires to skip over the worshiping families of California and Colorado. God is not in the earthquake, wind, or fire.
Natural events, like terrifying illnesses, are not where God is as a direct cause (James 1:13-17). They are the random occurrences that mark our world’s fallen nature. They happen to good people, as well as, to the bad. They remind us of the heavenly debate that begins the book of Job. If God puts a hedge around his people and lets no fire or flood hurt them, then people will have faith for the wrong reason.