I was recently doing some reading on the phenomenon called the Catatumbo lightning, a rare occurrence that takes place in Venezuela where the Catatumbo River empties into Lake Maracaibo. In my research, I found myself fascinated by what would seem to be one of the least interesting subject matters possible – wind.
Wind is something that is so taken for granted and elementary that we rarely give it a thought in our daily lives. However, it is a testament to how God’s design allows life on this planet to thrive.
Catatumbo lightning occurs when cool breeze from the Andes mountains flows into the warmer air above Lake Maracaibo which contains ionized gases like methane. When this happens, lightning storms unlike anything else on the planet occur with stunning consistency, to the degree that it has been called the “everlasting storm”.
This is rare because the meeting of methane and cool air in this way would not ordinarily occur. As we know that hot air rises, we can imagine this hot methane-rich air, created in the marshes surrounding the lake, beginning to rise, creating a vacuum which draws in cooler air to take its place and bring temperatures back down. Rather than attracting cooler air from an even elevation (allowing the hot and cool air not to come together), it draws in cool air from the mountains which is already elevated, causing them to cross paths – mountain air descending and methane air rising. Because of this mingling of differing temperatures, along with ionized gases in the mix, dangerous conditions arise. An otherwise natural occurrence within God’s plans (i.e. wind, or the sensation of feeling air displaced from cool to hot spaces) becomes dangerous when unstable elements enter the equation (i.e. methane from decomposing organic matter).
All of this reminds me of what is possible within Christian community when our brokenness enters the scene.
I love passages like 1 Peter 4:8-11 – “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.”
When Peter writes to this community of Jewish and Gentile believers, he is informing them of the difficult circumstances that they will experience, including persecution (1 Peter 4:12-19), and suggests that they must endure it all while living according to the way of Jesus, and in this specific passage, that includes loving others within the Church in a way that covers a multitude of sins. That they be truly hospitable in a way that eliminates complaint. That they expend themselves in service to one another, through the power of God, in a way that glorifies Him and testifies to His goodness before the world.
That is an incredibly beautiful sentiment. And it is a message that modern Christianity needs just as much as its original audience. Today, we see denominations pitted against one another. Mega-churches and small congregational pastors spar for members within their community. An assortment of preferences including worship styles, modes of baptism, and communion frequency divide fellow Christians. Differences in political affiliation will seemingly all but negate the effects of the blood of Christ and the brotherhood and sisterhood within His singular Bride.
These, among other topics, have potential to distract us from the commonality that we have in the death and resurrection of our Lord. They can cause a dissension which stands in for the methane within our illustration. It’s a kind of decomposition which, on one hand, occurs very naturally and we can expect within people who will not be glorified, or perfected, until we reach eternity. However, it’s a decomposition which we are still called to avoid within our Scriptures.
The plan of God is for us to relieve and refresh one another in loving community. Where difficulty and burden exist (heat), we need support (hot air rising and cool air filling that vacuum). Where conflict exists, we need the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to infuse our interactions and draw us together in love, bringing a kind of equilibrium back into our lives and our community. God has given us one another as a buffer to handle life’s difficulties, even to the point of persecution.
On so many occasions, I have very much needed and have received this kind of blessing that comes within community. Amy has brought me incredible comfort during times of anxiety and stress. During a recent time in which I have greatly needed distraction, I had an entire day at Kings Island with the youth group and accompanying adults which was a breath of life to me. Where I have needed inspiration, biblical direction, and correction, I have had the likes of Dr. Charles Ware who continues to draw my attention back to the Scriptures, which I desperately need, with literally every conversation that we have. Where I have needed belonging and brothers and sisters to weep alongside and pray for me in the midst of difficult times in my life, I have had the young adult group.
Every one of these people honor God by bringing refreshment and relief to me. Just as natural wind is a testament to how God’s design allows life on this planet to thrive, solid Christian community testifies to the world how God’s design within the Church allows us to thrive and experience His shalom (Colossians 1:19-20).
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff