Tornado hits Minneapolis, Warning? *UPDATED

[…UPDATE FOLLOWS BELOW…]

It happened yesterday, a freak storm and a tornado (as reported here).

Minneapolis Pastor & theologian John Piper just posted the following report and interpretation of this event. It is worth considering…

The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality
I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

1964_steepleThe first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.

Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)

5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

*PIPER’S UPDATE . . . .
Clarifying the Tornado, 21 Aug 2009

Three years ago God sent the tornado of cancer into my life. It split the steeple of my health and shredded the tents of my sexual life. I wrote an article to myself: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It could have been titled: Don’t waste your tornado. God’s message to me in my tornado was essentially the same as to the ELCA in theirs. My tornado was…

…a gentle but firm warning to me and all of us: Turn from every approval of sin in your life. Turn from the justification and promotion of any behaviors in your life that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great biblical heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from your inveterate bent to distort the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform you and all other sinners. (from Thursday’s post)

That is the message of every calamity (Luke 13:1-5). And every sunny day (Romans 2:4).

I said to myself three years ago: God’s design in the tornado of this cancer is “to deepen my love for Christ…and to wean me off the breast of the world.” It aims to make my besetting sins look less attractive than they ever have.

This tornado “is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack.” In other words, the cancer-tornado was a merciful rebuke to my worldliness and a timely thrust toward holiness.

This is the lesson that Luke 13:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 4:17-18; 12:9-10, and many other texts imply for every tornado in any city, and any life, anywhere in the world. Only the details change.

My tornado was a call to repentance. Yours will be too. But that is not Satan’s design. Only God’s. Satan’s design is that you approve your sin. God’s is that you let him forgive it and overcome it.

2 thoughts on “Tornado hits Minneapolis, Warning? *UPDATED

  1. John, while I wholeheartedly agree with your interpretation of the events themselves (I myself have battled same sex attraction and behavior and have had to repent and received and continue to receive the Lord’s transforming power) and the implicit (or explicit, however you will) warning found in it; I cannot agree with your updated interpretation of the cancer-tornado analogy. I believe Scripture makes it clear that sickness is not from the Lord and it is not there to teach a lesson on His Sovereignty in our lives. sickness is a direct result of the fall, and it’s counter-effect is healing. Jesus Christ is perfect theology. you never saw Jesus lay hands on anyone and cast cancer into into their lives as a punishment or a “tornado” to bring them to repentance. rather, you saw him heal everyone who came to him. of course, therein lies the implication that those with sickness who desire healing ought to COME TO HIM, as a choice; but nevertheless, you do not see Jesus approving of sickness in people’s lives. if Jesus is our example of perfect theology, it would stand to say that no instance of cancer is there to exist for us to formulate theology to accept it as simply punishment for sin. if sickness WERE a result of sin, then the act of confession would heal us (“confess your sins and you will be healed”). but rather, we are told in James 5:14 “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

    there is the condition for healing…the prayer of faith, and, if sin is present, confession that leads to healing. there is no provision in that verse for theology to accept cancer as a sanctifying work in our lives. I prefer to see the source of cancer as being none other than the devil. God is good. The Devil is bad. Cancer? Bad. therefore Cancer is of the Devil.

    Love,
    Matthew

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