In the Luke’s Gospel (13:1-21) Jesus refers to a recent disaster in which eighteen people were killed when part of an ancient tower wall fell near the pool of Siloam. Jesus asks the question, do you think they were more due for punishment than all the Galileans or all the people who live in Jerusalem?
While scholars say prophets in Jesus’ day used current disasters to encourage repentance before the end of time--or in this case, the coming of the reign of God, we know what Jesus is saying is that natural disasters happen and people are killed.
For those in the Lukan community who first heard this passage, and for us today, we know people are not killed through natural disasters because of their sin. We remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, which enables us to receive grace, eternal life and the ability to restore creation; all to the Glory of God. That is our task now.
In the wake of the events unfolding before our eyes in Haiti, some may be tempted to ask, why does one person survive while another does not? Were some spared because of righteous living? Did others perish because of some notorious sin? Jesus’ answer remains an unequivocal, “NO!”
A great disaster has occurred in one of the Episcopal Church’s largest and poorest dioceses. Reports put the death toll at 200,000. Many more will succumb to their wounds lacking proper medical care and nourishment despite heroic efforts from around the world.
Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin wrote to fellow bishops: “[The earthquake] was so strong that everything has been destroyed. All institutions of the Church have been destroyed. We have lost a lot of people including students of our schools and university.”
Bishop Duracin is unharmed but his wife suffered injury to her leg. The Episcopal Church in Haiti has lost its beautifully painted cathedral, nearby convent and school handicapped children, Holy Trinity Complex, College St. Pierre and a Jubilee Center, among many other schools and churches. The bishop remains among his people offering comfort and encouragement.
We know that our three missionaries are all accounted for - Mallory Holding, Jude Harmon, and Oge Beauvoir, who is the dean of the Theological Seminary, along with his wife Serette. We give thanks to God for their well being, and the well being of so many Haitians and relief workers, and we ask for a full measure of God’s grace to protect them as they continue their ministry in Haiti.
For those who perished, we ask God to recognize them as sheep of His own flock, lambs of His own fold, and sinners of His own redeeming. Give rest to them with the saints in light, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
What do we do in the face of this tragedy? Returning to the words of Luke’s Gospel, we first give thanks for the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that the knowledge that human suffering is known to God Himself. We give thanks for the redemption and grace that is given to us and the bounty of God’s love that is poured down upon us and the people of Haiti.
Out of a sense of that abundance and grace, our response is to confess and repent – just as Jesus taught those who listened to him so many years ago. And, we accept through our baptismal covenant and confirmation the invitation of God to act on behalf of those in Haiti.
The immediate need is donating funds for relief--to Episcopal Relief and Development (er-d.org), or other relief agencies--to provide clean water, food, medical supplie, and support for the relief and recovery ministries in Haiti. We make real the reign of God by helping, through dollar donations, to build the kingdom of God in Haiti – to restore creation in Haiti.
When the time comes, and it will, we will be ready to respond to help physically rebuild Haiti, restoring the lives of our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
And, we pray. We pray for those who are not yet found, but whom God knows by name. We pray for those found and the healing hands of those who minister to them. We pray for those who are scared that they may have the courage of God. We pray for the weak that they may have the strength of God. And, we pray that we may witness to the Glory of God and the presence of God through the ministering angels who are now descending to aid the people of Haiti.
In the words of Psalm 126: When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the anations, "The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev.
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball