CHRISTMAS 2 - random thoughts.
In the cycle of readings for the Episcopal Church this Sunday is the story of the Flight to Egypt except the lectionary leaves out verses 16-18, Herod's slaughter of all boys under age 2. This is a particularly glaring omission to me this week. During the week the world witnessed one of the greatest natural disasters of history, 120,000 people died (as of today) and damage to property and livelihoods beyond counting. A great percentage of the dead are children - a modern day slaughter of innocents. The earth is constructed to shift the underlying plates to maintain balance so in a way you could say that the creator caused the earthquake and tsunami but the theology of the Incarnation - God born,living and dying as Jesus the Christ - tells of God who enters into human life and suffers with us. Even in the earliest days of Jesus' life he lives in times of danger and suffering. To me the slaughter of the tsunami is partly due to a natural catastrophe but there is an element of Herod too. Many of the areas that were destroyed ignored the posssibility of tsunami and built on the shoreline to attract tourists. Many areas cut down the natural flora and destroyed reefs, that could have slowed the waves, to build shrimp farms so we can have inexpensive shrimp for our parties. Many places forgot the stories of the elders that say when there is an earthquake the waves will follow - go to higher ground. There is one island where most all survived because they remembered the wisdom of their foremothers and forefathers - when they felt the earthquake they all went to the hills. There could have been warning systems set up but money was not found for that. One hotel had its own warning system and all there were saved.
So where is God in all of this? Some are saying it is God's punishment on those who were partying and having a holiday at the beach during Christmas, or because it is a place where gays and lesbians are free to be together and have fun. (see Fred Phelps site for this particular bit of Herod-like thinking). That is NOT my Christianity, that is not the message of Jesus, God with us. To me, God is present in the woman who lived inland and cooked up all she had in her house, put it on a cart and wheeled it down to the shore and began feeding whoever showed up. God is in the tourists who sprang into action using their skills as EMTs or doctors or whatever, and their resources to begin immediate aid. God is in the columnists who shamed the US government into committing more aid than the paltrey $15 million drop in the bucket first offered. A country that spends $30 billion on diet products each year, a country that spends $30 million every 4 hours in a war in Iraq - can do better. Countries around the world contributed to aid and individual generosity is even more impressive. Already money is flowing through religious and private organizations into programs that are in place and organized to assist people The Episcopal Relief and Development program is set up through the Anglican Communion and its local churches throughtout the area of the Indian Ocean. $250,000 went out immediately and more to follow as donations are made.
The tragedy is beyond my ability to take in and yet I have hope that it will bring us together as humans on this planet - our island Earth. It will still be terrible for all who are suffering but we will not be left on the side of Herod - a king who sees only threats to his power and reacts creating more suffering and loss. Hopefully, we will be on the side of the One who calls us to see each other as family, sisters and brothers, the One born in the midst of times of terror. Nathan Nettleton in Australia says it better than any in A Christmas Tsunami.
So many questions in this journey of faith, what are our answers and what is God's answer?