"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change …. Therefore, rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls." James 1: 17, 21
Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!
Perhaps it was better to wait until after our family vacation to Yellowstone National Park before reading the article about volcanoes lurking there, as reported in this month's National Geographic magazine. Perhaps it was better to relax in the cool August evenings and crisp, bright mornings with my family and hundreds of other tourists, and await Old Faithful's performance, before reading the magazine's report.
Old Faithful, with wonder and delight, seemed to step up to our expectations and perform in proper manner. This tourist attraction so near to our lodging afforded a late evening and early morning view of its show and shower-blast. Boiling, roiling water sprayed hundreds of feet in the air, displaying might and majesty, yet it seemed contained, even manageable. Through the careful study of geophysicists and others, the proportions and potential of the subterranean volcanic system throughout the park and beyond have emerged. At the shallowest level, surface water percolates several miles into the crust, is heated, and boils back up, supplying the geysers and fumaroles. Below, much greater activity stirs.
Days after returning home, I chose to read about what lies beneath the beauty and calm of the lovely park and was stunned to learn of the potential below the earth's surface. For some reason, reading National Geographic grabbed my attention more than the abundant and informative signage throughout the park. Perhaps in thousands of years, or perhaps earlier, the supervolcanoes stirring below will erupt. Scientists wonder about the hot spot responsible for the Yellowstone cauldron or caldera, which has erupted dozens of times in the past, going back some 18 million years. Yet our experience and that of our touring companions gave us a sense of calm. Yellowstone Lake, with its geysers under and around, was a center of apparent solace. Nature and time seem at peace there and everywhere we ventured during our short stay in the park.
Supervolcanoes and Sunday sermons aren't typically aligned. But I couldn't resist James' reference to the implanted word, with its power to save. James urges that we "welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls." Perched a safe distance from Old Faithful, my family and I marveled at this predictable display of nature. That display hinted at power and strength "implanted". A later and closer reading told me that much power and strength is implanted below Old Faithful and all of its faithful and not-so-faithful geysers and fumaroles.
As observers of these geysers, we received hints at the power surging below the surface. In our walk of faith as Christians, don't we also receive hints about power that surges in places and ways that we don't expect?
One evening while I awaited Old Faithful's display, my cell phone rang. A friend requested prayers for another who was undergoing medical tests. Another evening while waiting for Old Faithful, a voicemail message provided a request for prayers. A loved one had died. Please remember this loved one who mourns.
In the presence of a geyser designated by its faithful displays, I was called to hold in prayer those for whom illness or death had drawn near. Old Faithful spouted off with beauty and fury, releasing hints of a greater power within. God's majesty and quiet strength are shown in the grandeur of nature. God's majesty and quiet strength are faithfully, quietly and not-so-quietly present in every-day experiences. The display of God's faithfulness and presence is not fickle. God doesn't "hold off" God's faithfulness for certain times. God keeps "every perfect gift" before us, whether we're aware of that gift or not.
These gifts are often simple: the patience and love of a spouse, the eager companionship of a child, the wisdom of an elder, our acceptance of the day's time and what we have to give it, the forgiveness of a friend. These gifts are all simple. Yet they are all profound.
God's faithfulness, stirring where we do not always notice, is made real in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The potential of strength and life has broken through the crust of human sin and insisted that faithfulness and life is for all. The implanted word, which has the power to save, cannot be contained and is not "held off" like an earthen volcano. The implanted word, made known to us in baptismal waters and broken bread and poured cup, is faithful in its stirrings among and within us.
What is afoot below this crusty earth's surface? Geophysicists tell us a great deal. What is afoot in the stirrings of God's murmurings and callings, as the Old Faithful One who holds and redeems us through Christ? Gifts provide glimpses. Creating, sustaining, redeeming gifts are ours through the Triune Old Faithful. Thanks be to God! Amen.