St Bride's: Sermons

Tsunami Disaster

Over the past weeks we have watched with increasing horror the unfolding apocalyptic nightmare around the shores of the Indian Ocean, as the terrible effects of the Tsunami have become apparent. srilanka.jpgA natural disaster of huge proportions, which has destroyed thousands of lives, injured many thousand others, made millions homeless and now threatens disease on a massive scale unless aid can quickly be organised.

It seems doubly shocking that this disaster strikes at the Christmas season, when people are relaxing on holiday with their families, when we are at our most defenceless. Is this God's sick joke? For many it is 'just one of those things that happen', but for the Christian it poses huge and difficult questions about the God we believe in and the world He has made. How can a good and omnipotent God have created such a flawed world that can, with a flick of its crust, create such sudden and overwhelming chaos?

As the Church Times editorial put it this week: "An earthquake is perhaps the purest form of natural disaster. No blame can attach to human intervention. The disinterested planet shifts in its sleep, and in those few seconds, is transformed from a benign and generous host into a brutal foe."

Our Christian faith needs to be able to embrace phenomena of this kind, and I believe we can suggest answers to these difficult questions, not in terms of an angry God punishing human beings for sin, but because we believe in a God who not only makes the world, but makes the world make itself, and this process of continual creation contains within itself seeds of destructivity as well as creativity. Its part of what we have to accept for having a planet which sustains life in the way this one does. God, by placing us in this physical world, has set life within the parameters of physical happenings such as tectonic plates shifting, and earthquakes occurring, as well as beautiful sunsets and sunrises, the fruitfulness of the earth, and so on. It is through learning to cope with the negative as well as the positive forces that we learn to grow as human beings and exhibit the values and virtues which give human life its real meaning and point us to the God of sacrificial love and compassion.

We can't just read off the idea of God from creation because creation is both beautiful and brutal. But we don't have to because we believe in a revealed religion, in a God who has shown us something of Himself and his plan for us, supremely in the life and death of Jesus Christ. And that suggests that instead of asking Why did this happen, we should be asking How should we respond? What should we do? And the answer to that is that we know God wants us to follow our Lord’s example, acknowledge our common humanity with those who need our help on the other side of the world, and to do what we can to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send aid to the injured and homeless. We cannot fully understand, but we can strive to imitate God's sacrificial love. We are donating today's collection to the Appeal: it isn't much but it is something we can do and it will make a difference to lives that have been shattered – giving them a chance to survive and rebuild again.

A final thought from Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, commenting yesterday:

rabbi.jpg"It was after an earlier flood, in the days of Noah, that God made His first covenant with mankind. The Bible says that God had seen 'a world filled with violence' and asked Noah to institute a social order that would honour human life as the image of God. Not as an explanation of suffering, but as a response to it, I for one will pray that in our collective grief we renew the covenant of human solidarity. Having seen how small and vulnerable humanity is in the face of nature, might we not also see how small are the things that divide us, and how tragic to add grief to grief."

That seems to me a fruitful thought with which to begin a new year.

blog comments powered by Disqus