Disclaimer: Sorry, bit rambling today, but lots of thoughts all jumbled up in my mind haven’t straightened themselves out enough to be linear. Typing this helped some, but not quite enough . . .
This morning I was actually up early (woo hoo!) and made it to the pancake breakfast at church without any hardship. Considering I am usually not even remotely awake at the time it started, this constituted a true accomplishment for me this AM. I had a very nice time, sat with some of the ladies from my small group and was joined by B and NoMH a bit after 8am. Because I was there so early I went to the early gym service instead of my usual 1115 spot.
Boy, what a difference between the two of them.
My usual service is usually marked by people desperately looking for a place to sit. The entire gym is full, and people are asked to squonch into the middle to allow for more and more people to make it in. I know my little section, am glad to see those that have been out for awhile, etc., etc.
The early service is only six rows. Granted, those six rows are about 50 across, but still, big difference based on perspective. I really liked the smaller atmosphere. Missed my family, but enjoyed the smaller experience. Because this service is simultaneous with the one in the sanctuary, sometimes it has a sermon that is topical to the sanctuary/1115 service but is unique in that a guest speaker cannot be in two services at the same time. Such was the case today when one of the regular guys got up to talk.
This pastor is always someone that I enjoy hearing preach. He is an MK, grew up overseas, has an Asian background, and it took me two years to learn how to spell his last name properly–though I’m still not sure I’m really pronouncing it right. I think that today he had something to say, and it mirrored a Sunday School lesson that still resonates with me from a few years ago on how to Embrace your Pain.
So he got up to speak, and the title was “What do you do when the waters rise?”. Original text was out of Psalm 104, and he told the story of how he went to a boarding school in the Philippines that, while the students properly prepared for a typhoon, also had students that would go out and play in the rain because the wind and water could be so much fun.
Within the last four weeks, the Cyclone that hit Burma and the earthquake that hit China has caused incredible devastation. As he has relatives that are from that part of China, of course this resonated with him. He went on to talk about the tsunami that hit India and Hurricane Katrina, how they also caused mass havoc and chaos, and how people blamed God for all that was going on, or preached that we were in the end times as is evident by the destruction around us.
This really got me thinking. I remember thinking that an alternate sermon title, to borrow a cliché, could have been “Why bad things happen to good people”. That these things happen and people instantly blame God for all that is going on, saying that people are being destroyed because they have sinned or being punished because they are not Christian or have not lived a proper lifestyle.
While I agree that there is always a bad apple in every bunch, I have a hard time believing that all that happens is the fault of a non-Christian from either behavior or faith. How can you look in the eyes of the children that are orphaned and homeless, starving because there is not food, and their entire village was destroyed by Cyclone Nargis and think that it is punishment for something that they have done? I know that there is evil in the world. I know that natural disasters occur.
The important thing to remember, I think, is that God allows both to exist. From the beginning, we have had such. One of the things I always thought was ironic, and was even mentioned in the sermon today, is the story of Noah. Let’s get all these animals on a boat and float away for forty days. Nice, light, and fluffy, without mentioning the fact that every other person on the earth was destroyed in the flood, that basically you had Noah, Ham, Shem, and Japheth as the men to repopulate the earth, and Noah was already almost 600 years old. Yes, people lived longer back then, and reading the Bible you have a lot of incest and inter familial marriage. Just as Adam and Eve’s children had to start somewhere, so did the children of Noah. And what kills me is imagining all the unbelievers that were frantically trying to tread water, the children that would perish in the deluge. Not that all of the people were immoral, though a large number of them were living in a way unpleasing to God. But basically God started over, with one family, just as he did with Adam and Eve. It’s not the only time–the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the languages at Babel, and so on.
Sorry, back to topic. So the sermon today went on to ask the question of what to do when the waters come. While Jesus is the one that came to take responsibility of all our actions that doesn’t mean that it was the end of all evil, pain, and suffering. People blame God for allowing things to happen, and then blame people for being in a place that such punishment is deserved. Yet at the same time both are incorrect–we still have evil and disaster in the world, and while God may not like it it is a fact of life. Innocent lives are always lost on the battlefield of war, not just on terra firma but in the spiritual plane as well. The only way we can help is to do what we do when we have no clue what the proper behavior is–just start doing. Helping to serve food at a funeral, trying to comfort someone during a time of need, trying to make sure that your neighbor has milk during a snowstorm, just do. Act in the best regards that we can and try to make a difference, letting our beliefs and our faith guide us in the actions that we do and the way we behave. Eventually, heaven and earth will be rebuilt and we will see the proper way to answer the question of what to do, but until that time we just have to go on faith.
Not easy, I know, as faith is sometimes something that comes with difficulty rather than ease, but we still have to try.
Then as I was leaving church today I noticed that someone had spray painted graffiti on the wooden retaining wall across the street from church the phrase “people bore me”. (Bet you thought my title had no purpose, didn’t you?). I thought about that phrase and the individual that was so moved to proclaim that statement, and felt pity for them. After the sermon we had just heard I couldn’t help but feel that there was something that is still missing not just in the world but in our immediate community, in a place were people are considered boring by a soul.
With all that is going on in today’s world (and I have steadfastly refused to read most news headlines for the last two weeks as I was getting too easily depressed) how on earth can you consider people boring? What do we as a society have to do to convince this boy/girl that people are a thriving organism that have our own foibles and downfalls along with our mountain highs and elations that provide the momentum to keep on going? How can we get through to this person that it is not up to us to entertain him/her but instead teach this person that the boredom he/she is experiencing is something that is indicative of his/her life and values, not something we are responsible for? Just as God cannot be blamed for all that is going wrong with the aftermath of earthquakes and cyclones, we as a society cannot be blamed for the perception of an individual. So how do we reach that individual, and get that point across? Or do we just let this poor soul waste away with the assumption that all is boring and inconsequential for their individual existence?