Floods are 'creation groaning,' pastor says

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (BP)--The floodwaters overtaking the Midwest -- as well as tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters -- are a symptom of the curse initiated by the fall of man in Genesis 3, a pastor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said.

Eric Schumacher of Northbrook Baptist Church preached June 15 on "The 500-Year Flood and the Kingdom of Christ."

"I preached out of Genesis that man was created to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, representing God in our rule," Schumacher told Baptist Press. "Through Adam's rebellion, the earth was put under a curse so that basically the earth wouldn't cooperate with our rule. Thorns and thistles would grow, and it would be painful work subduing the earth and having dominion."

As the Apostle Paul indicated in Romans 8, the earth is groaning under a curse with a desire to be set free from bondage, Schumacher said.

"That's what these disasters are, creation groaning to be reborn," he said.

The pastor reminded his church members that Jesus Christ is the only human who has ever had control over creation since the fall of man, as evidenced by His calming of the sea in the Gospels.

"He is the second Adam who is subduing the earth and exercising dominion in the way the first Adam failed to, and He removed the curse through His death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection," Schumacher said. "We live in an age now where we experience in part some of the benefits of His Kingdom through our spiritual rebirth and forgiveness of sins, but we're not yet experiencing the fullness of that Kingdom which is going to come when He comes again and makes all things new and gives us a new heaven and a new earth."

Schumacher, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., encouraged Iowans to look to Jesus as their Savior in the midst of floodwaters.

"Our source of hope is not FEMA. It's not the power of a community to pull together. It's not flood walls," he said. "Our hope is that we have a King in Jesus who can subdue the earth and have dominion over it and will raise us from the dead to live in His Kingdom forever.

"I reminded people too that our hometown is not Cedar Rapids. Our hometown is the New Jerusalem, and we're waiting for that King and that city."

Schumacher, in his sermon, urged believers to have a hope-filled homesickness, allowing the floods to remind them that this world isn't their home.

"One of the things I reminded them was that there were 24,000 people displaced in Cedar Rapids, but that has never been a new experience for the Christian," he said. "We've always been exiled. We've always been sojourners. We're not home yet. Even if we have a physical house here and an address and a mailbox and we're not displaced from that, we're still a displaced people. This should remind us to be homesick."

The pastor also recalled televangelists who in 2005 said Hurricane Katrina was God's judgment on New Orleans.

"In a sense it is God's judgment because it's part of the curse. On the other hand, it's God's mercy because it's less than what we deserve and we're still alive and have the opportunity to repent," Schumacher said.

Southern Baptists in Iowa should use the flood as an instrument to show compassion and generosity to those who have lost their possessions, he said, and it should serve as an opportunity for believers to tell their neighbors what the flood means, that it's part of the curse and everyone needs Jesus to redeem them.

Northbrook, a congregation with about 150 members, is in a part of Cedar Rapids that wasn't reached by floodwaters, Schumacher said. One family in the church was displaced from their home and they're waiting to learn the status of the structure, he said, and another church member lost his chiropractic offices to the flood.

Donald Kimbell, commander of the temporary Baptist incident response center in Des Moines, told Baptist Press that Southern Baptist disaster relief units deployed in Iowa expected to serve 13,000 meals collectively June 17. FEMA officials have asked the units to be prepared to serve 100,000 on Wednesday if strained levees continue to break, he said.

Feeding units from several states are operating in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Wapello, Davenport and Iowa City, Richard Nations, editor of the Iowa Baptist newspaper, reported.

Plans are in the works for a Southern Baptist mud-out team to set up at True Bible Baptist Church, a Regular Baptist congregation in Des Moines, Kimbell said.

"They will be providing free mud-outs to people who need some ministry. We don't know yet which team is coming, but it will be a team of at least 10 people. We'll have a shower unit here for them too," Kimbell said. "We are poised to bring in even more mud-out teams as we identify churches that will house and feed them."

The North American Mission Board reported that multiple feeding, assessment, recovery, mud-out, chaplain, shower, laundry, child care, command and communications teams have been activated from more than 20 state conventions in response to recent tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest.

As of June 16, NAMB said Southern Baptists had prepared nearly 18,000 meals and recorded more than 450 contacts made by chaplains in the region, among other ministries.

In addition to a shower unit from the Kentucky Baptist Convention that was damaged by high winds en route to Iowa, the Baptist State Convention of Michigan lost two disaster relief units during a tornado this past weekend, NAMB said on its website. No injuries were involved in either incident.

Besides Iowa, Southern Baptist disaster relief teams are active in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico, California and North Carolina. The latter three states are battling wildfires, NAMB said.

Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. To read a manuscript of Eric Schumacher's sermon on the flood or to listen to audio, visit northbrookbc.org.

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