Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Struck by a lightning rod

Living in the lightning capital of the United States, I have learned to keep an eye on the dark clouds when setting out on a long run. It’s not wise to be caught out in the middle of nowhere when a storm breaks.

It’s thrilling to watch the light shows when you’re safe inside. However, given that lightning can be five times hotter than the surface of the sun, it’s a good idea to keep a safe distance. Thumbs up, then, to Ben Franklin for coming up with the lightning rod.

I thought about his contribution to public safety this week when I got locked out of our church’s weekly men’s prayer meeting. No one else showed, and as I didn’t have a key I just sat down on a bench outside and decided to go solo.

Our Wednesday morning group usually gathers round the altar in the sanctuary, over which is suspended a simple wooden cross. It appears to hang in mid-air, a graphic symbol of safety and strength.

As I prayed, I could see the cross through the window. Looking up to the roof of the church, I spotted its lightning rod standing straight, and thought it was a pity there wasn’t a cross there for people outside the church to see.

Then I decided—it struck me, you might say—there was, if they looked carefully.

The rod on the roof and the cross in the sanctuary have much in common. They both offer protection from the all-consuming power of the heavens. The lightning rod needs to be nailed high, just as Jesus was lifted up on a wooden pillar. Struck, it absorbs the intensity of light and heat, bringing the untold power safely to earth.

Some might see a “don’t get fried!” message in this metaphor, but to me the image is more about protection and provision than punishment. Running round outside in a thunder storm is asking for trouble; you’re better off looking for shelter.

In my native land of England, we called Franklin’s invention a lightning conductor, and I like the allusion that offers. Raised high, with arms out, Jesus doesn’t just save us and bring to earth the unfathomable power of heaven. In doing so, He also orchestrates a sweet symphony. The ugly cross becomes a thing of quiet beauty.

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