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Broken Beyond Recognition

The Rev. Joseph Winston

January 11, 2009

Sermon

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1
As part of the research on the horrible devastation caused by hurricanes, Texas
A&M University has been looking at aerial photographs of the Texas Gulf Coast.2
One series of images for Rollover Pass at Bolivar Peninsula is particularly striking.
The first picture shows this area of the state immediately after Hurricane Carla.3
This massive category four storm, which bordered on the edge of a category five,
struck the Texas Coast on September 11, 1961 with measured wind gusts of 170
1
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians
1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
2
Eric Berger, History is doomed to repeat itself. Amazing photo inside, (http://blogs.
chron.com/sciguy/archives/2009/01/history_is_doom.html#comments,
January 2009).
3
Jim Gibeaut, Hurrican Impacts At Rollover Pass Bolivar Peninsua, Texas, (http:
//texascoastgeology.com/Hurr%20Ike/rollover%20carla%20to%20now%
20BEG.JPG, January 2009).

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miles per hour.4 The winds created a storm surge of twenty-two feet and then
pushed the water up to ten miles inland. The combined forces of wind and water
devastated the area around Gilchrist, Texas. The aerial photographs assembled by
A&M clearly show this destruction. After Carla, most of the man-made structures
have disappeared. The exceptions are Highway 87 and a few houses. It looks like
the highway survived the storm since its shadow still appears on the coastline and
if one looks closely enough, it seems that several dozen houses still stand.
Forty-four years later, it appears that everyone has completely forgotten the
force, which Hurricane Carla hit the Gulf Coast. A similar aerial photograph
of Gilchrist taken in 2005 shows these dramatic changes. Highway 87 now has
clearly defined edges and branching off of it are hundreds of little roads that lead
to many different houses.
The final image of the series is from September of 2008 and it shows the horri-
ble destruction that Hurricane Ike brought to the Texas Coast. Almost forty-seven
years to the day after Carla, Rollover Pass once again suffered the effects of a
massive storm. The name of the hurricane this time around was Ike. His winds
peaked at 145 miles per hour and they shoved a twelve-foot wall of water across
Gilchrist.5 One more time, these combined forces devastated the area around Bo-
livar Peninsula. The aerial image from this hurricane looks hauntingly similar to
that of 1961. The road no longer stands out against the background. Now a thin
strip parallels the peninsula. Today, all the driveways are gone. Most of the houses
4
Anonymous, Hurricane Carla, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_
Carla, 2009).
5
Idem, Hurricane Ike, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Ike, 2009).

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are missing. Maybe a handful of them remain.
Today’s Gospel lesson also presents us with at least one vivid image of a world
broken beyond recognition. This fact clearly given to us by the author of Mark
might be extremely difficult for us to see because we lack the correct perspective.
Literally, we cannot step back and see what is happening to us because we do not
know what to look for. This exact same idea is found in the work presented by
Texas A&M. The viewpoint of time found in the three images allows us to see the
same thing happening again and again. Hurricanes hit the Texas Coast. Moving
off the ground and into the air widens our view. As far as the eye can see, a major
storm brings complete and utter destruction to the coast.
The verse that indicates to us the destruction of the world as we know it is
Mark 1:10. Here the narrator tells us that, “the heavens are torn apart.” Today, we
might think nothing of tearing down one part of heaven. For us, this substantial
reconfiguration of creation is not a “big deal” because we do not really have an
idea of where heaven is located. In our minds, heaven is off some place else and it
is very far away from us. Heaven might be found outside our universe, beyond our
wildest imagination, or further from us as night is from day. The outcome of our
post-modern viewpoint that places heaven somewhere out there and then ripping
it into pieces is this. Nothing changes here on earth. Heaven is just too far away
from us.
The obliteration of the division between in heaven is extremely frightening if
you know the Scriptures and believe the picture that it paints of the universe. In
this model of the world, heaven is right above the sky and any changes in heaven

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directly affect the earth below. So, if God does something in heaven, everyone
down here knows what happens. Precipitation is a great example of this fact since
some of the universe’s water is kept up in heaven. Sometimes the water in heaven
that falls on the earth is in the form of either snow or hail (Job 38:22). Heaven
also holds the water that might appear on the earth as rain (Genesis 8:2), show-
ers (Jeremiah 14:22), or dew (Genesis 27:28). Whenever God decides that water
should fall on the earth, God commands that it happen. Think what would occur if
all these storehouses were damaged when the heaven was torn apart by God. The
world would be overrun with water. This is exactly what happened during the time
of Noah. God no longer held back the water and the earth was destroyed (Genesis
7:11).
Other terrible things happen when the heavens are torn apart. Humans can get
in and with this success at their backs, nothing will stop them (Genesis 11:4; 11:6).
Genesis provides us with one concrete account where this occurred. A group of
people decided to build a tower, so high that it could reach into heaven (Genesis
11:4). God saw what was taking place. The L ORD put a stop to their plan by
scattering people over the face of the earth and confusing their languages (Genesis
11:8-9).
This report by the narrator in today’s Gospel lesson that the heavens are ripped
apart is absolutely horrifying if you happen to believe in the Greek and Roman
gods. With this tremendous hole in the heavens that can be clearly seen from
down here on the earth, the gods from above can easily come down and visit us.
Our primary responsibly to these Greek and Roman gods is to save them from

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their untimely deaths that completely they bring on themselves by too much living,
loving, or fighting. Every time anyone of these gods dies, the god’s followers
must follow some strict set of rules that will eventually awaken the sleeping god
once again. Sometimes this offering took the form of food to the gods. At other
times, the deceased deity required the dedication of children. And it might even
be necessary the followers to die so that the god might live again. The plain fact
is this. The sacrifice of humans brought the dead god back to life. That is why a
torn heaven is so dangerous to us humans. The gods can get in and take something
precious from us.
Carefully notice what has happened in the two thousand years that have passed
since God ripped apart the heavens. We do not remember this event any more. It
has to be explicitly pointed out to us.
Here on the Gulf Coast, we are very familiar with this type of behavior. If
you go to the areas all around that were devastated by Ike, you will see “For
Sale” signs sprouting up everywhere. It will not be very long until these signs are
replaced with ones that say, “Sold.”
All of these actions on our part boil down to one essential fact. We do not think
that it will happen to us. That killer storm will never come. We believe that our
property will be safe.
Time after time, we have been proved wrong: the Great Storm of 1900, the
1915 storm, Carla in sixty-one, Ike last year, and all those other smaller storms in
between that damaged this area in their own special way. They all have come and
in their wake of destruction, they left a world that was broken beyond recognition.

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Our conduct in other parts of our life follows this same pattern. We really
believe that, “It will not happen to us.”
We happily live out our lives with this strange illusion that nothing can go
wrong until that storm finally hits us hard. Like all hurricanes, this storm has a
name. It might be called old age, sickness, addiction, or death. When it finally tears
into us and everything that we hold dear, we become broken beyond recognition.
Our world has been dramatically changed for the worse. Our friends cannot break
through the tremendous pain that we feel. Our family cannot replace what has
been lost. We are powerless against the storm.
There is One who has been broken beyond recognition but still lives to tell
the story. There is One who has been through the worst storm imaginable but in
a heartbeat would do it again. This One has literally been to hell and back (Acts
2:31; 1 Peter 3:19).
This One will save you.
For many of us, this One first came to us in the waters of Baptism. Mixed in
with the waters that always have the power to take our life from us was that One.
This One proclaims to everything that would damage us beyond recognition we
are His. This gift, which we do not deserve, does not promise us a life that is free
from storms and the damage that they bring. We cannot expect that dream to come
true because we know what the world does to this One. We have seen it with our
own eyes and we have even willingly participated in the destruction of the One
who came to save us. Rather, this One promises something else: life without the
walls that separate us from God, life everlasting.

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Others of us have encountered the One in the midst of the horrible storms of
life (1 Kings 19:11-13). While it would be so easy to believe in the force and
the destruction that these hurricanes bring into the world, we all know that the
wind and the rain will be quickly gone. Who could trust any force that leaves
us so easily? Instead, this One comes to us in a small voice that says, “I love
you. You are mine.” Just like before, this One does not promise us that life will
be smooth sailing. It was not that way for the Him and you can expect the same
life of suffering that the One also had (Mark 8:24). The One gives to you a new
creation a world that God changed by opening up heaven so that you might live
with Him.
All of these actions by Jesus have the potential of transforming us beyond
recognition. This occurs when we do not reject the promises that He freely gives
us. With Christ in us, the world can now thrown whatever it wants at us. Storms
may come and go. The landscape all around us can change. Nothing can cause
this One to go back on His Word. God now loves us just like His Son.
The hurricanes’ destruction has left an indelible mark on the Gulf Coast. The
shape of the Coast has changed. Sand is no longer where it used to be. Many land-
marks have shifted places. It is understood that these tremendous forces brought
by the storm also affected the all living creatures, which could not leave the
storm’s great wrath. Countless trees were damaged. Thousands of acres of ground
cover were destroyed. Animals and insects of all kinds were killed. Even our most
beloved structures, our homes, have been washed into the sea. The Gulf Coast has
been broken beyond recognition. All this has been documented for us to see.

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It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that our world has dramatically
changed. It no longer looks the same and given what we have seen with our own
eyes in the last four months, more than likely our surroundings will never be the
way they were before the storm.
The question that faces us is one of strategy. How do we adapt to the world
that God has put us in? As you consider this difficult question, remember that this
permanent tear in the heavens means there is nothing between God and us. The
reality is that He is here with us whether we like it or not. What are we going to
do with this news?
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus.”6

References

Anonymous, Hurricane Carla, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/


Hurricane_Carla, 2009), Last checked on January 10, 2008.

Anonymous, Hurricane Ike, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/


Hurricane_Ike, 2009), Last checked on January 10, 2008.

Berger, Eric, History is doomed to repeat itself. Amazing photo inside,


(http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2009/01/
history_is_doom.html#comments, January 2009), Last checked
on January 10, 2008.
6
Philippians 4:7.

8
Gibeaut, Jim, Hurrican Impacts At Rollover Pass Bolivar Peninsua, Texas,
(http://texascoastgeology.com/Hurr%20Ike/rollover%
20carla%20to%20now%20BEG.JPG, January 2009), Last checked on
January 10, 2008.