Where Is God?
There is a sense of sadness in the air. There is a sense of somber sorrow which looms low in the atmosphere. For we have witnessed this past week a great tragedy. This week, which has seemed to move across a span of years, not days, has unfolded to us a tragedy which continues to play out even now. We have witnessed the shattering of lives and the shattering of dreams, for a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck
As we sit in this place in relative comfort, perhaps wanting to complain about the inconvenience of this challenge or the other, perhaps tempted to decry some little wart on the backs of our imperfect lives; as we sit in this place of safety today, there have been those for whom the cold finger of death has cone. Our hearts bleed and our consciences ache for the families of those who have been caught in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti; an earthquake that Pat Robertson has suggested was brought on by the people of Haiti themselves who allegedly made a pact with the devil in order to successfully eradicate slavery in their country. Haiti, now the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, who in 1791 began this hemisphere’s only successful slave revolt against the French, was represented well by the Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. who gave answer to Robertson’s judgment and gave credence to Jesus’ words, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Raymond Joseph, Haitian ambassador to the
He blasted Robertson's comments, concluding, "So, what pact the Haitians 'made with the devil' has helped the
We grieve for the people of
I dare say that all of us are familiar with the rhythm of this sharp question and I dare say that we are familiar with the fear and the failure that presses from us the haunting question, “where is God?” For we have seen and heard and read the tender tales of those who survived the quake to tell their stories of terror and loss. Everything they had was lost. Not just “things” but what was once warm flesh had blood was swallowed up in the earth last week. Not just houses and furniture, but what was once the object of their affections and the seat of their love. And we grieve and ache with pain because what was once so dear to people just like us is cruelly no more.
And we ask the question in our lonely sadness- Where is God?
Who could forget the images that we have seen on television and the internet of survivors carrying their dead children in their arms. Who could forget the images of the dead strewn like trash in the streets. Who could forget the images of survivors who sleep outside in the streets next to the dead because of the fear that aftershocks would further cause buildings to crumble. Who could forget images of people, including orphaned children, wandering in the streets with life threatening images with nowhere to go to get medical attention. And the question wells up in our throats and in our tears- “Where is God?”
For you see, there are things with which we must deal in this life that take our breath away. The truth be told, we must deal with some things in this life that shake us to our very core. There are things that we must go through that will test our faith to the fullest and we cannot help but ask, in our pain and amidst our problems, “where is God?” Even Jesus, in his hour of greatest tribulation and torment cried out from the cold cross on
Where is God? When sickness racks your body and the news from the physician is not favorable;
when tears have dug furrows in your cheeks as they flowed like rivers; when our relationships have soured and our dream has turned into a nightmare; when friends betray you; when folks surround you with judgment and unforgiveness; when death has laid hold of one whom we loved;
when loneliness becomes our constant companion; when the storms of life rage; when the cold callous crookedness of a cruel world covers us? These are the times when we feel a faltering faith, these are the times that our souls sputter and our confidence in Christ caves in and the question comes in light of it all, “Where is God?”
If the truth be told, we must admit that there are circumstances in our lives that we feel are so appalling and so perplexing and so beyond our human understanding and way outside of the paradigm of humanity that our sensitivities cause us to believe that God must not be around, that God must have taken a vacation, and even that God must not exist. Where is God?
When one recalls the terrible devastation of the natural disasters that have befallen the Haitian people, from hurricane to earthquake, and we smell the stench of human suffering we have to admit that even the holiest of Christians have their issues with God. How could we reconcile an all loving God who is the master of the universe to the all consuming natural disaster which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and left even more to pick up the pieces? Who does not feel their faith shaken?
Perhaps as we read the headlines, with all the devastation and calamity, and even the headlines of disappointment and discouragement of our own lives, we have been compelled to ask this question. And so the question that we ask in the midst of our own and even humanity’s suffering, the existential question that must be handled, is still before us- “Where is God?” Where is God in the midst of suffering?
And it is appropriate that this tragedy intersect with the celebration of the birth of one Martin Luther King who said "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity."
In today’s gospel, my dear people of God, Jesus speaks through the chaos of our questioning and he asks a searching question of his own which we hear echoed in King’s statement. Jesus asks his Mother and more broadly us today, “What concern is that to you and to me?”
I do realize that I have taken some license with the text because Jesus asked this question in the context of a wedding in
But I dare you today to see what Jesus is saying, for his actions spoke the answer for us. Not only did Jesus step in and remedy the situation, changing water into wine, but for all time he has let us know that the concerns of others are necessarily our concerns.
And so let me suggest to you today God is speaking to us in this tragedy; Jesus here is suggesting to us that the needs of our brothers and sisters are our needs and the suffering of those bound to us in humanity is our suffering. “What concern is that to you and me?” Well, it was from a Birmingham Jail that Martin Luther King read the actions of Jesus and understood that, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
I wish I could stop here for a while and develop this a bit more, but I have got to press on to my point, for the question then re-echoes, amidst this most recent tragedy- Where is God?
And I want to offer to you the fact that Matthew 15 tells us clearly “For when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Let me try to make it more plain. Jesus, who is God robed in flesh, tells us with stunning simplicity that one way to experience the presence of God is to Gather together in God’s name. God is manifest is a special way and becomes incarnate in our midst when we dwell together in God’s name.
When we come to church together, God is there. When we gather in prayer and bible study, God is there. When we work in our guilds and on our various committees, God is there. When we tell a stranger about the goodness of Jesus, God is there. When we work together to build vehicles of justice like our Angel Food ministry or our safe haven home, God is there. In other words, God is a God of relationship and God is manifest in a special way when we live and relate to one another in love and in community.
And if we want to see God during this time of crisis and calamity, we must heed the call to gather ourselves, our prayers and our resources together because it is our concern. Two or three or ten or thousands, whatever the case, we must gather in God’s name, in the name of the one who gave his all for us on Calvary; in the name of the one who daily gives us grace to live and to breathe; in the name of the one in whom our safety is to be found; we must gather together in God’s name to reach out toa suffering world. And as we reach out, we do so as the incarnation of the living God.
For God lives in us and we as Christians show the love of God by how we reach out to each other.
St Theresa of
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yous; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
We must bring God to those who have been devastated by the earthquake in
And so today, my brothers and sisters, if you are yet looking for God in this infamous time;
If you are looking to see God at work; I ask you to remember that we, the church, are the body of Christ on earth. And if you want to see God move, then we must move. And so in this time of great loss and despair, we must continue praying, we must continue our sober reflection.
But most of all, we must begin to move by giving.
In 2005, after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, the presiding bishop sent a letter to all bishops, clergy and congregations urging us to be united in a community of prayer and service. Bishop Frank Griswold’s letter speaks to us even in the midst of this tragedy. Bishop Griswold wrote: “At this time let us be exceedingly mindful that bearing one another’s burdens and sharing one another’s suffering is integral to being members of the Body of Christ. I call upon every member of our church to reach out in prayer and tangible support to our brothers and sisters as they live through these overwhelming days of loss and begin to face the difficult challenges of the future…Life affords us very few securities and yet deep within us, often revealed in the midst of profound vulnerability and loss, springs up a hope that contradicts the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Such hope emerges from the depths of despair as pure and unexpected gift. This is the way Christ accompanies us and seeks to share our burdens. May Christ so be with those who are enduring the effects of the hurricane (tragedy), and may each one of us be a minister of hope to others in these dark and tragic days.”
Well, I came to assure all of us today that I don’t know the answer to why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why God allows tragedy and disaster to befall us. I don’t know why God allows an earthquake to kill thousands of innocent people. I don’t know why God allows sickness. I don’t know why God, our sovereign and almighty God, allows war and wickedness to exist. But there is one thing that I do know, and that is that God will show himself even in the midst of it all and he is faithful to deliver.
And God shows up most often in the form of his people whom he has called to serve him. So today, we will all have the opportunity to see God at work by giving generously to relieve the suffering of those of our brothers and sisters in
And God will judge us. The 25th chapter of Matthew describes for us the awesome day of final judgment to which we will all be subject: 31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
Where is God? God is right here, right now!