by The Rev. Rich Heinz
The earth shook! But it was not the first time. It trembled as in the day of Elijah. “And he said, “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” 1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
Earthquakes are strong – forces to be reckoned with. It was easy even for Elijah to think that this was how the Lord was going to work and appear and speak to him. Yet this was not what the Lord God chose to do.
This morning, across much of the Midwest, people were awakened to sounds and vibrations that shook them out of their sleep. Some experienced awe or amazement, others were troubled or unnerved. At the most recent reports, no serious injuries were encountered, and for that we thank God. Still, the power, strength, and patterns of the Lord’s earth amaze (and sometimes frighten) us.
The Lord was not in Elijah’s earthquake, but He was the One who could stop it, protecting and preserving the prophet. This morning, no one can blame the Lord for sending this earthquake in pointless wrath. It was not divine punishment. Nor was it man’s fault for not living a “green” life. It was simply part of the regular patterns that have existed since our world fell into sin. And it was still the Lord who stopped it from being worse, and protected and preserved people everywhere. Through it all, it is the Lord God pointing us to the saving events of another Friday.
You see, it was another Friday that had an amazing earthquake. On the first Good Friday, when our Savior died, Saint Matthew records that a great earthquake took place. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:51-54 ESV
At that moment, the very earth grieved for her Creator as He died to make all things new. God allowed these miracles, including the Good Friday earthquake, so they would witness to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.
This Friday’s earthquake had no purpose as grand as the earth giving an “Amen!” to Christ’s “It is finished.” Yet we acknowledge our Lord permitting it, even as the earth groans in longing for her risen and ascended Lord to return.
The Rev. Rich Heinz is Senior Pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN. He and his family, as well as the Buetow family some 3 hours west of the Heinz’s, were awakened to this amazing event on Friday morning.