Group reflection: Does the weather have free will?

Tonight we reflected as a group upon two texts: Psalm 29, which describes God revelling in thunder, lightning and general weather havoc vs Jesus stilling the storm (Luke 8:22-25). What follows are some highlights of the conversation, in which we came to the surprising conclusion that perhaps even the weather has free will! What do you think?

Does Jesus’ command of the storm demonstrate domination or communication?

  • Jesus rebuked the storm: to rebuke something is strong language.
  • We remembered that Jesus rebuked powerful people and demons in the gospels, so rebuke is part of his work and language.
  • We noted the difference between ‘authoritarian’ or ‘authoritative.’ Jesus taught and acted ‘with authority’, which is not the same as being authoritarian. Just as a parent might lovingly rebuke and correct a child’s destructive behaviours, so too Jesus might have lovingly rebuked and corrected a weather system which was out of control.

What do you notice about how God and Jesus interact with weather systems?

  • We noticed that, in the act of rebuke, Jesus was communicating with the weather.
  • We noticed that, in the Psalm, God both communicates with and through the weather.
  • We struggled with the idea of God controlling the weather: what does this mean for victims of tsunamis or superstorms? We came to wonder whether God is indeed controlling the weather, or whether, just as God is in us, but we have freedom to act, so too God might be in the weather, but the weather has freedom to act.
  • This suggests to us that the weather (and the entire created order) might have free will. In other words, God may have granted earth, sea and sky the same freedom and agency that God granted us.

As people made in the image of God and called to follow Jesus’ example, how, then, should we live?

  • If God is in the storm (and all creation), and if Jesus communicates with the storm (and all creation), then we, too, need to learn to communicate with the whole of creation. This will mean learning to listen deeply.
  • Given the climate crisis, we must also serve the weather (and all creation) as Christ bid us serve the vulnerable. In other words, we are called to live in environmentally sustainable ways; care for the earth; learn to listen to, communicate with and advocate on behalf of all creation; and participate in the healing of all creation.

Any final comments?

  • Wendell Berry speaks of the need for the wild, not just for its own sake but also for ours.
  • We tend to insulate ourselves from wildness – but this means we also insulate ourselves from God.
  • As we have read through various passages from Job and the Psalms over the last few weeks, it has become clear that God is much bigger and wilder and out-of-control than we would like to think! God is not domestic, and to claim so is to make God into an idol. We are invited out of our comfortable domestic spaces and into God’s wildness and freedom and joy – and we will experience this most easily in the wild spaces of this earth. So let’s advocate for them and care for them. Amen!

Year C Creation 3. Photo by Jean-Pierre Brungs on Unsplash.

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