(silent) May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my soul be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
This is not the homily I had intended to deliver today. I had intended to talk about the wedding feast at Cana, but that was before an earthquake destroyed Haiti.
I had intended to talk about humor in the Gospels, but that was before houses and businesses crumbled and caved in trapping men, women, and children who had little hope of escape.
I had intended to talk about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but that was before a so-called man of God proclaimed that the people of Haiti were being punished by God for something this man claims happened over two-hundred years ago.
Now, I need to say this—at the very beginning of this homily—that God is not to blame for this natural disaster. Nor is God punishing a people who are among the most downtrodden on Earth. The very idea that God is visiting his wrath upon these poor people is one of the most sinful ideas ever to be verbalized. Yet, every time there is a natural or human-made disaster, there are those who claim to know that God is punishing the victims for some real or imagined evil. These people claim to be Christian; they claim to speak for God; but instead of bringing the comfort of God to the victims of disaster, they bring more pain. I am so angry over statements such as this that I will not even mention the name of the most recent offender; I will not honor him even indirectly by speaking his name.
My Christian brothers and sisters; know this and know it beyond all doubt—in the midst of this horrible disaster, God loves the people of Haiti. God has not deserted them. They are God’s children. In the midst of any disaster—whether it is natural or comes from human origins—God and God’s love are present.
So, let’s today—let’s talk about the love of God in the midst of disasters.
How many times have you heard someone ask, “How could God let something like this happen?” How many times have you heard, “Where was God when this earthquake . . . or this hurricane . . . or this tornado . . . or this flood . . . or this bombing . . . took place?” How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t believe there is a God, because if there were he wouldn’t let something like this happen.” I know I’ve heard these things said many times, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of times!
People are so quick to blame God for the bad things that happen—or at least blame God for not stopping those things from happening, but how quick are they to “blame” God for all the good things that happen or for all those times when everything is going just fine? No, what you hear are things like:
• Man, did we pick a great week to go to the Bahamas, the weather was fantastic, and what luck, that hurricane never even came close. OR
• We sure had a stroke of good luck. If I hadn’t had the electrician in to add a new circuit in the basement, we would never have known about those frayed wires until the house burned down. What luck! OR
• Hey, remember that batch of lottery tickets we bought about a year ago? Well, I found some we hadn’t checked, and guess what! One of them was worth $10,000. What luck, huh? They’d have been worthless this time next week.
Well, excuse me, but if we’re going to blame God for all the bad things that happen, how ‘bout we start thanking God instead of luck for all the good things that happen to us.
You want to know where the love God is in the midst of this disaster in Haiti?
• God’s love is apparent in the rescue teams that have come from Israel, from Japan, from the United States.
• God’s love is apparent in the Hospital ships and the Naval vessels that are now off the coast of Haiti.
• God’s love is in the technology and ingenuity that made such vessels possible.
• God’s love is in the medical supplies those vessels bring. It’s in doctors and nurses and medics that have arrived and will continue arrive with the Naval Task Forces.
• God’s love is the desalinization plants that are carried on board those vessels and which are even now producing fresh water for the people of Haiti.
• God’s love is in the volunteers from all around the world who are converging on Haiti—people from churches, from hospitals, from fire departments, and from police forces.
• God’s love is in the rescue dogs that are being airlifted with their handlers—dogs that will be able to sniff out survivors and also those who have died.
• God’s love is in the prayers of people all around the world—Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists; people of all faiths.
• God’s love is in the donations of people of faith—such as yourselves—people who give what they have to help those who are suffering so horribly.
When disaster occurs, God does not forget his children; God embraces his children and walks with his children through all their pain and all their suffering. Listen to what the Psalmist said in the 121st Psalm:
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from Yahweh,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved.
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
Yahweh is your keeper.
Yahweh is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Yahweh will keep you from all evil.
He will keep your soul.
Yahweh will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore.”
God knows the sufferings and pains we have in life. God knows the pain that comes as a result of natural disasters. God knows and understands, because God has experienced it—personally. In Haiti this week, people are suffering horribly. People are dying—horribly. People are losing loved ones. Parents have lost children. Children have lost parents. Whole families have been lost.
And yet there will be those who ask, “Where was God?” “Doesn’t God care?” “Doesn’t God understand?”
And the answers are all so apparent to those who have faith in our loving God:
• God was right there!
• God cares more than you can imagine!
• God understands as only a parent can understand!
How do I know these things to be true? I know because—in the words of that wonderfully familiar children’s song—”the Bible tells me so!”
I know because of the words of the Gospel writer:
“For God so loved the world,
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish,
but have eternal life.
For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world should be saved through him.”
Do you think that God doesn’t understand or care when a loved one dies? God watched his only son die horribly—nailed to a cross to suffer for our sins.
Do you think that God doesn’t understand how we feel when disaster strikes; that God doesn’t know what it’s like to feel what we feel? God came down from highest heaven and became human! God didn’t just take on human form and pretend to be human. God became human. And in becoming human, God experienced all our pain, all our suffering, all our anguish, all our grief. But God also experienced all our joy, all our love, all our hopes and dreams.
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As we follow the events in Haiti, as we follow the rescue efforts—and the recovery efforts; know this about God. Every time those teams in Haiti recover the body of someone who did not survive; every time you hear the cries of grief; know that God is crying too . . . that God is grieving, also.
But know this as well; know that every time those volunteers pull someone from the rubble alive—like that 2-month-old baby they pulled from the rubble this morning; every time you hear the cries of joy; know that God is also crying in joy.
You see God has given us the power to demonstrate His love. God has given us the power to be compassionate and loving toward one another. And when we demonstrate compassion and love, that—THAT—is the presence of God in our lives. THAT is the presence of God in midst of disaster.
I feel sorry for anyone who claims that such a natural disaster is the result of God venting his wrath upon innocents because of something that may or may not have happened two centuries ago. It brings God down to the level of human pettiness. That kind of statement implies that God wants to scare us into believing; that God uses fear to draw us near. God is just the opposite. God is love. God draws us into his embrace through love, not through fear.
Where does the love of God go in the midst of disasters? It goes right where it has always been. It goes to and with God’s children. God wraps his huge loving arms around his creation, and God weeps with us in our suffering and shouts with us in our joyfulness.
Don’t ask where God is in the midst of disaster. Know—KNOW—that God is with us, walking with us, holding on to us. Don’t ever doubt that. Don’t doubt it because Christ promised us:
“I am with you always,
even to the end of the age!”
Let us pray.
May the love of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; Emmanu’el—God is with us; our loving Savior and Redeemer. Amen.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2010 Daniel Brettell. Used by permission.