There’s an oak tree growing in a narrow strip of gravel between the parking lot and the sidewalk at my son’s school. It’s a fairly decent specimen, considering it’s surrounded by concrete and blacktop. The trunk in maybe eighteen or twenty inches in diameter, nice and straight for the first twenty feet or so. The crown isn’t very extensive, but as I sat in the car waiting for school to let out, I could see it was heavy with acorns.

On the morning of November 1, 1755, parishioners were attending services in Lisbon’s Cathedral, the Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa. Mid-service, an 8.4 magnitude earthquake broke loose about 120 miles offshore, unleashing cataclysmic destruction on the Portuguese capital. Reports indicated that the quake lasted nearly 6 minutes. Survivors of the quake rushed to the city’s waterfront, where they were overwhelmed by a massive tsunami that arrived about 40 minutes later. Overturned lamps and cooking fires unleashed a firestorm in the ruined city, burning much of what remained after the devastation of the quake and the flood. Over 85 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed, including the main chapel of the cathedral.

I like to think of myself as a reasonably good driver.  I make sure I’m paying attention to the vehicles around me, my phone is in my pocket or the hands-free holder, I try not to speed, I’m faithful about signaling, and I don’t like making a lot of lane changes.  Traffic usually doesn’t get me worked up.  I figure that if I go the speed limit, and take my time, I’ll get where I’m going about the same time as the person who is in a terrible hurry.  I like to stop at the stop line, and I won’t edge out into the intersection just to try to make that last left turn after the light turns red.  So, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with last Wednesday.

We do the things that are important to us. But we don’t always do what we say is important to us. A person of integrity is one who can harmonize what they do, what they say, and what they believe to be important. If there’s an “odd-man-out” in the system, it’s the verbalization of our priorities. I was reminded of this when British Petroleum started running ads after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. After the offshore rig exploded, killing 11 crew-members and leaving an uncapped hole that poured 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP was careful to present itself as an environmentally sensitive company committed to repairing the damage inflicted on the sensitive ecosystems of the Gulf. Economically, BP went from the 2nd largest to the 4th largest oil company after the spill, and BP gas stations in the US reported a sales drop of 10 to 40 percent as consumers expressed their anger about BP’s responsibility for the disaster.

Last Sunday, we began our fall series examining some of the virtues we as Christians are called to show in our lives. The first one we looked at was the virtue of faithfulness, and as I mentioned in the message, it’s hard to talk about faithfulness from a scriptural perspective without considering the story of Abraham. In so many New Testament books, Abraham is held up as the paragon of faithfulness. But there’s a lot more to Abraham than just that.