Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Katrina Update 13: Who was Katrina for?

Lately, I’ve had a hard time focusing as I am reading the word. I am not getting up any earlier than normal, but I have had longer days…and been living the life of a nomad for the past month, so maybe it is just that I am out of sorts and not sleeping as well as I would if I were in my own bed.

I don’t’ mean to imply that I am in an uncomfortable situation…I am not. The bed I occupy now is very nice and comfy…it’s just not mine.

I say all that not to complain but to explain my delayed reaction to what I read this morning.

Because of my lack of focus, I went back over what I’d read at 4:45 this morning and the fitted-togetherness and pertinence of it struck me and just laid out before me what I believe is revelation to me from the Lord.

It didn’t strike me this morning. In fact, nothing much struck me except that I was in the famous prophetic portion of Isaiah and hearing those familiar and nearly quotable passages was comforting to me.

What leapt out at me first as I re-read everything was actually a bit before the messianic passages, in Chapter 51.

I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD of hosts is his name. (Isaiah 51:15)

Obviously, I thought of Katrina. With that thought in my head, I read…
And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing
the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.' Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem,you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath,who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne;there is none to take her by the hand among all the sons she has brought up. These two things have happened to you-- who will console you?--devastation and destruction, famine and sword; who will comfort you? (Isaiah 51:16-19)

I love that this section starts with what God has done for His people.

16And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

That is the reminder. We are His people.

I find I need a lot of reminders.

The next portion of this passage talks about the people experiencing the wrath of God…the cup of staggering and pointing out that (though they have likely sought it in numerous places) there has been no comfort to be found, no guidance, no leadership.

That made me think of something I heard today. I was talking to our receptionist who is a member of a church located just across the way from our office building. The president of our company is also a member as is one of our engineers. He is the president of the congregation and heads up the various committees that seem to actually run the church. From her description of the structure, the pastor's responsibilities are preaching on Sunday, weddings, funerals and occasional counseling. As of yet, none of the congregation has been contacted, no attempt has been made to gather or have any form of service and the engineer who is president of the congregation feels it will be left to him to organize the cleaning up and rebuilding…up to him to either make it happen or make the tough choices regarding what is replaced and what is considered a loss.

I have heard several other stories quite like this, where the pastor is not being a pastor and truly seems to only be thinking of himself. Several have up and left, found jobs elsewhere and basically left their congregations to fend for themselves. Still others have made little or no attempt to reach out to their members or be a part of the rebuilding process.

I was stunned, quite frankly. And then thankful, that my church has not been left without leadership…without someone to guide us and gather us together…without a shepherd. We have been truly blessed.

Then my thoughts lingered back to the word of prophesy I heard regarding Katrina. It was given a year ago and basically said that this would be a cleansing.
Given the history and culture of New Orleans, the knee-jerk assumption is that it is to cleanse sin…the sinners. That is a possibility. I am sure that some sinful establishments were destroyed and may move on…and that other individuals may come face to face with their maker and make a decision for Christ. But, I don’t think the purpose of Katrina was to obliterate the sinful ways of a sinful region so much as it was to cleanse a sinful church…and sinful believers…in a sinful region.

I believe Katrina was to cleanse this sinner from that particular sinful region.

New Orleans (and the Gulfcoast in general) is sinful, to be sure. God judges sin, that is also certain. But, Jesus has dealt with the sin of man. He didn't do it by obliterating sin or sinful towns...He paved the only way to right standing with God, commissioned us with the preparation of the gospel of peace and has given the rocks permission to cry out in our absence. The gospel is plain and proclaimed in truth every day. What is lacking is our part…the church’s part. The daily living of a life of faith, in truth, out loud, without curtailment or excuse or contradiction. What is lacking is a church that is as passionate about the gospel as it is about its building and programs and fellowships. What is lacking is lives surrendered to one thing and one thing only…to know Christ and Him crucified.

In Isaiah 52, a great call goes out…and of course that call also comes with a reminder…and a promise:
1Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion;put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem;loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
3For thus says the LORD: "You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money." 4For thus says the Lord GOD: "My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. 5Now therefore what have I here," declares the LORD, "seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail," declares the LORD, "and continually all the day my name is despised. 6Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I."
7How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 8The voice of your watchmen--they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy;for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.
9Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem,for the LORD has comforted his people;

The Lord has comforted His people. Unfortunately, some of His people have not received His comfort…even turned their back to it. This is a time for us as believers to cling even more fiercely to Christ for if Katrina has showed us nothing it is that nothing else is guaranteed us. Another storm could whip up tomorrow and wipe away what Katrina left behind. Rita threatened to do just that. All that is promised is that God is…always near…never changing…loving, kind, merciful…and that no matter what befalls us (whether by the hand of the enemy or His wrath) he will comfort His people.

Isaiah 51:16 And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing[c] the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

You are my people.

He has called us so…let us live it out and do as Paul urges in Ephesians chapter 5:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord...Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (v. 1-10, 15-17)

This is written not to the lost but to the church. The Ephesian church needed this reminder and admonition. I believe the New Orleans church needed an epistle in the form of Katrina to remind and admonish us of what we are called to.

As the winds blew and the water flooded in, I believe the Lord was saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

As people watched in horror as homes were swept away, entire towns covered in water, smashed beyond recognition and absolute chaos reigning among those left behind, He was saying to the church:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

As we contemplate recovery and wonder about how long it will take, what it will look like, whether it is even worth it, He is saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

And as we think on our personal and family issues and look back on what has been lost or changed, and see the sin that is exposed by the deprivation, He is saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

We have been largely dead here as a church...as believers…in the New Orleans area. But not dead to the world. As we stand in the death and destruction Katrina has wrought, let us die our little deaths to self and the world and awake to Christ…open our eyes to His light shining on us, leading the way, illuminating those things that are pleasing to Him, that we might shine in this city that is still so dark despite the cleansing flood. Let us heed the call, submit to the correction and walk on with His words in our mouths, covered by the shadow of His hand, proclaiming that we are His people.


  1. Hey Tina! Your words were very comforting. Now that my parents' house has literally turned inside out and their yard looks like a "furniture graveyard," I'm feeling grief and compassion for their losses and the losses of others. It's no small thing. I truly desire to see how God's hand is in this and what He will do for those that are called by His name.
    Love you girl! Keep in touch!

  2. Tina, I linked to you via Christian Bloggers. I am amazed and thrilled by the tone to your postings re: your experiences through Katrina. I was upligted and blessed by the faith, the hope and the peace you felt and shared. Thank you for sharing, you have blessed me.