On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy, the largest storm (as measured in diameter) ever recorded on the Atlantic Ocean, came ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey. It devastated the northeastern United States, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. At 1,100 miles wide, Sandy’s impact was felt as far west as Michigan and deep into the heart of Canada.
On December 5, 2012, I traveled with Regional Pastor Warren Geraghty and Pastor Kevin Foss as they delivered supplies from Peace Christian Church in Bohemia, New York to the city of Breezy Point. It had been ten years since I had been to Breezy Point, but I remembered it well. The large homes and beautiful view of New York City had been etched in my mind.
After passing through a security checkpoint, we dropped our supplies off at a Red Cross station. One of the volunteers spotted our cameras and offered to take us on a quick tour of the area. Following a street buried in sand, we walked by a seemingly endless parade of homes that had been twisted loose from their foundations. The neighborhood felt quiet and empty. When we finally reached the ocean, the scene was unimaginable: homes torn in two, the beach thick with debris, and a cool wind blowing as a steady reminder that winter was on its way.
That evening we talked about our experience, what we had seen, what we had heard. Pastor Kevin reminded us of the shortest verse in Scripture. A verse only two words long, but they are two words that reveal much about God.
John records Jesus’ reaction as he encounters Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, grieving after their brother’s death. His response to their pain is anger, not anger at Mary or Martha, but anger at a fallen world, anger at death and the devastation it brings. But we cannot hear this verse without also remembering the actions of Jesus that immediately follow.
Jesus commands the mourners to remove the stone from in front of Lazarus’ tomb, and he speaks the words, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man comes out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus does not need to ask twice. He speaks just those three words, and death gives up its victim.
At that moment Jesus demonstrated his power to heal, to recreate, to rebuild what death and sin are bent on destroying.
As I traveled the Northeast, I heard story after story of God’s grace and mercy. I witnessed the Church and community coming together. I heard and saw the Gospel proclaimed in word and deed, the body of Christ in action.
I can’t explain this storm, the death and destruction it has brought, but I can tell you that it has opened doors that were closed. It has softened hearts that were hard. As Pastor Kevin said, “It has given the Church a platform to be the hands, feet, and ears of Christ.”
The cleanup is far from over. Please be in prayer for our fellow congregations as they represent Christ to their communities, as they witness in word and deed, in the wake of this storm.