I will not keep silent

Yesterday morning I heard a fantastic sermon, preached by my colleague in ministry at Christ Church, the Rev’d Melody Shobe. I am incredibly fortunate to serve with such a gifted priest, who offered this sermon in the morning and then led us with powerful and faithful prayers at our afternoon prayer service for the people of Haiti and all those offering aid work.

If you have wondered about God’s part in the earthquake in Haiti, or how God might challenge people of faith to respond, go read this sermon. Here’s a bit to whet your appetite.

Girl crying in HaitiWe talk about it, and analyze it and grieve over it. And then we try to make sense of it. It’s in our nature to try to come to grips with tragedies and make sense of them. But trying to make sense of the senseless can be problematic, especially when, like the prophet Isaiah says, you cannot keep silent. Because some of the people who cannot remain silent really should. They say terrible things about God causing this disaster, horrible things about judgment on the Haitian people because of “a pact with the devil.” These are the same kinds of damaging, disgusting things people said in the wake of the tsunami, 9-11, and Hurricane Katrina. Often, when people try to make sense of the senseless, they get it all wrong and just cause more grief and pain.

And as repulsive as this explanation is to our ears, it is not far removed from what we tend to do, whenever we rationalize tragedy by pointing to God. When hurricanes or earthquakes or shootings or drunk driving accidents or any of the other tragedies that fill our nightly news occur, what do well-meaning Christians all over the world say? “It must be God’s will.”

I hope you’ll go read the whole sermon.

I think one of the great errors of our day must surely be our attempt to make sense of the senseless. We assume a fatalism (“If it’s meant to be, it will happen”) or a kind of theism (“It must be God’s will”) that doesn’t square with most flavors of Christianity, save full-blown Calvinism. Otherwise rational people toss wisdom and sense out the window, because we cannot accept a simple fact: sometimes really terrible things happen, for no redeeming purpose. God’s promise is to suffer with us, not to push us to the breaking point.

This sermon does an outstanding job of helping us understand, on the one hand, that God may not have willed this destruction, but on the other hand, we people of faith have a responsibility to join with God in being a healing presence in times of suffering.

At our 10:30 service, a visiting preacher gave a fine sermon on the Wedding and Cana, and made reference to the contrast between God’s abundance and the painful lack of abundance we so often see. If I can get the text, I’ll post that one too.

Photo from the Big Picture blog.

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1 Response

  1. Very nice. The whole issue of silence in the midst of tragedies or, for that matter, life in general – whether we keep it or not – should help remind us that words have the power to create and destroy. Many of the words offered since the earthquake have simply been more aftershocks that have left more hurt and destruction. In my own reflections on this past Sunday’s readings I was struck by the renaming that happens in Isaiah and the paradox of those words with the images of Haiti, http://interruptingthesilence.com/2010/01/17/a-wedding-at-cana-an-earthquake-in-haiti/

    Peace, Mike