On August 23rd of 2005, Hurricane Katrina was born as a tropical depression in the southeastern Bahamas, strengthening into a tropical storm the next day. A few hours before landfall in south Florida at around 6.30 EDT on August 25th, Katrina strengthened to become a category 1 (wind speeds of 75 mph or greater) hurricane. Continuing to strengthen and move northwards during the next 3 days, Katrina reached maximum wind speeds on the morning of Sunday August 28th of over 170 mph, and its pressure dropped that afternoon to the 4th lowest on record for an Atlantic storm.
Although Katrina, at its peak strength was one of the strongest recorded, its power was even greater because it was a significantly larger storm and Katrina remained a strong category 4 hurricane longer than normal.
We all know what devastation Hurricane Katrina left in its wake. At the center of every hurricane and every tornado is a vortex, a rapidly spinning cycle of air that turns and turns with great energy.
This vortex, this powerful force, is the image I want to use this morning in meditating on God and His love. It’s a strange way of thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, but love is so common and so much talked about that even as Christians it’s hard for us to really hear how radical love is. Therefore, a radical image.
Picture a vortex, a tornado that is a mighty rushing wind. You can’t see it, but everywhere you look you see its effects. The vortex is dynamic: ever moving and alive; powerful; and so strong that it can pick up houses and cars like they were toys. The vortex mysteriously moves and transforms things in its path, and yet inside it does not stop being itself. It pulls some things in and throws others out. It is the vortex, the kind of vortex that true love is.
I picture God, the Trinity, the source of all love, as a vortex. The Trinity is mysterious, the eternal 3 in 1 who is ever in motion and yet ever the same; all-powerful and all-loving; changing everything in His path; always looking outward with love, and yet never ceasing to be God.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are, in fact, a Trinity of mutual love – and therefore, love is at the center of the universe. And it is into this vortex of love that God desires to suck you. It is out of this vortex of love that God acted in history to redeem you and the cosmos.
Love is the power of God in our lives. It is the Almighty God reaching down to us fallen creatures, and giving us the love with which He first loved us. How powerful is this love of God? It broke down the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, and it breaks down racial barriers everywhere. It destroys sin and death and Satan.
And it’s the secret to acting as the Body of Christ, which we meditated on yesterday.
I saw the X-Men movie a while ago, the one with mutants with extraordinary powers. One can aim a laser at any object; one can summon up storms and aim lightning at people; one can take any shape she wants; and another absorbs the life and special powers from whoever she touches.
But love – has the most amazing powers of all.
In verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul tells us that love has the power to suffer long. One of the most remarkable powers I know of in the universe is the power to say “No” to self and “Yes” to someone else, for love has the power to not seek its own (verse 5.) Love has the power to endure all things (verse 6) and do many other things that Paul describes. And these are very great powers, indeed.
God’s powerful love is also dynamic. God is a dynamic, transforming love: let the love of God truly enter into a man, and he will never be the same. Love has the power to transform a man from one who thinks only of himself and what is good for him to one who seeks the good of others first. The love of God has the power to transform you – and your love has the power to transform those around you. I’m amazed, even in my own household, when one of my older kids puts on a loving attitude how the whole atmosphere of the household is transformed for the better.
God (and His love) is to be the power at the center of your life and my life and of the life of
God’s people, a power that transforms everything in its path. If God the Vortex is at center of your life, then that Vortex of Love will also transform the lives of all those around you.
This mighty Vortex of Love that is God went out of Himself. The love that is God could not be confined but spread explosively into His Creation. God could have stayed safely in heaven, but instead He chose to become a human, born a baby and humbled to death, even the death of the Cross.
God became man – and yet remained God! Sucked up and transformed by the God who is Love, we, too are to look outside of ourselves and our own interests. Therefore, love does not parade itself and is not puffed up (verse 4) and does not seek its own (verse 5.)
Love looks outside itself – first to God, and then to others. Sometimes, though, we’re afraid that looking outside of ourselves means losing ourselves. If we mean the Old Man, then yes, I’m afraid you’ll lose your Old Self.
But your identity as a Christian is tied up with God and therefore with love. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35.) The truth is that it’s when we don’t love, precisely when we are selfish that we lose our best and most true identity as made in God’s image and redeemed in the image of His Son. The Corinthians were in danger of confusing love with the effects of love, of doing godly things for selfish reasons. The Corinthians could take the gifts of tongues, faith, alms, and even martyrdom and turn them into reasons to think too highly of themselves.
But Paul says that if we do anything without love – it does us no good, and we become nothing. If I don’t have love, Paul says, “I am nothing” (verse 2), and all else that I do doesn’t profit me (verse 3.)
Finally, God’s Vortex of Love sucks in virtue, but expels vice. I’m adapting a phrase from St. Chrysostom, who said: “Love elicits virtue and expels vice.” Love sucks in patience and longsuffering and its expels impatience and complaining (verse 4.) Love sucks in godly contentment, and expels envy (verse 4.) It sucks in selflessness and expels selfishness (verses 4-5.) Love sucks in more love in all of its forms, and it vomits out pride and self in all of their forms.
Sometimes the Christian life can seem dull. Sometimes it may seem static and boring. But if you enter into the love of God, you are entering a mighty vortex!
When you enter into the love of God – watch out! because it is a living, whirling force that will forever change you. The Vortex of Love that is God may be violent or dangerous or even terrifying – but it should never be boring!
If you want to know how a few simple men from Israel could revolutionize the whole world – not only in the 1st century but forever – then learn to love as they loved. If you want to know how to have your life transformed forever, as well as the lives of people throughout this land – then learn the love of God.
For the love of God is a transforming vortex.
Prayer: O Lord of all love who is Love and shares it with His people, give me Yourself today that I might also have Your love. Help me to seek You more than I seek myself, and in the process transform me into the image of Your Son, who out of love gave His life for me and for the sins of the whole world. Lord, suck me into your holy vortex of love today that I might love as You first loved me. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Meditate today on God’s love for you. Think of a time when you have been most aware of it, and give thanks.
2. Imagine God, the Holy Trinity, as a vortex in your life. What things in your life need to be disturbed by God’s presence, what things need to be sucked in more, and what things need to be expelled by His love? How might you respond differently if you began to experience God’s love as a tornado?
Resolution: I resolve to consider one way in which I may be seeking self above God and His love and to seek God’s help to love today.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day