It's a tumultuous place, the earth. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes, and tidal waves often dominate the news.
Such events used to be widely thought of as expressions of divine retribution for human sins. Today, they're generally seen as naturally occurring phenomena that increasingly can be predicted.
Of course, forecasting storms and seismic events does not prevent them. And so titanic are the forces of nature, that physical attempts to dissipate a big hurricane could be likened to throwing a firecracker at a thunderstorm.
Yet, 2,000 years ago, Christ is said to have stilled a life-threatening storm, and actually to have walked on a stormy sea (see Matt. 8:26 and 14:25). Do we have something practical to learn from this humble man about calming the earth?
Apparently. He seems to have understood something profound about force and law that is not generally known today. If humankind is to prevent natural disasters, perhaps Jesus' method of mastering the elements of nature will one day need to be more widely recognized and studied. If so - and even if that result is many years off - it is hardly too soon to consider his solution to destructive forces.
"The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works," he insisted (John 14:10). A fundamental tenet of Jesus' lifework is that he attributed all that he did to God, not to himself. He apparently accepted without reservation that God is good, is omnipotent - and that we are blessed by God, not punished. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," he said, echoing the first chapter of Genesis (see Matt. 5:48; Gen. 1:26, 27).
He approached every issue from a theological, not a material, base. He boiled it all down to thought rather than physics. When he healed diseases, he showed control over matter. Though he never condemned sick people, he saw disease as the effect of mistaken, ungodlike concepts rather than physical laws. His first public message to humanity was "Repent ["change your thought"]: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).
Some say his healings and storm-stillings amounted to an anomaly, never to be repeated. Others contend they never really happened. But spiritual healing - which happens to this day - supports Christ's own words, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12).
Jesus may have revealed a wholly different paradigm for the universe. Might he have illustrated the proposition - radical even in this enlightened age - that matter has no inherent ability to create or to destroy? That destructive forces are no more natural or necessary than they are results of divine retribution?
Perhaps Jesus was illustrating that violent weather derives from the base and destructive elements of humanity's thoughts and motives - such as hate, malice, and resistance to spiritual progress. In one account, interestingly, he appears to have associated natural disasters with persecution of his followers (see Luke, chap. 21).
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote over 100 years ago that "the physical universe expresses the conscious and unconscious thoughts of mortals" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 484). Also: "Erring power is a material belief, a blind miscalled force, the offspring of will and not of wisdom, of the mortal mind and not of the immortal. It is the headlong cataract, the devouring flame, the tempest's breath. It is lightning and hurricane, all that is selfish, wicked, dishonest, and impure" (pg. 192).
Eruptions in the harmony of the earth may be related to the mental upheaval that occurs when the most fundamental human convictions collide, convictions that ultimately have to do with the nature of reality itself. When Jesus stilled a storm, did he call into question the "fact" that matter is the primary cause? He may have been teaching that the earth is in one sense very similar to the human body, in that its conditions improve with an improvement of thought.
Controlling base and ungodlike convictions, and letting Spirit, God, be supreme in our lives, brings greater health and calm.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society