Sermon – Jeremiah 14:1-9
Rev Rainer Schack
Since Boxing Day, the Tsunami disaster has been on the front page of the leading newspapers and TV-News Bulletins. The death toll has been rising to over 165,000 with the final figure probably never to be known. The entire world is in shock and wondering how something of such a proportion could have happened. Why weren’t there warning systems in place?
Those with a faith in God are wondering whether God has any responsibility in what has happened. God, why didn’t you intervene? Why did so many innocent children have to die?
Various clerics have given their interpretations of the disaster as to why God is directly responsible, indirectly responsible, or not responsible at all. Some church leaders explain that God has judged the world for their sins. Others state that it is God’s judgment on the Muslim world in particular, and others assert that God has not sent the disaster, but has passively permitted it to happen.
And then there are those theologians who are a bit more careful with their explanations, who encourage us to grieve with those who are grieving, rather than to find theoretical explanations which add further pain to those who are already grieving.
How has the tsunami tragedy affected you? What feelings, what questions have arisen within you as you have listened to the news? What responses have been triggered within you either in word or deed?
Whatever our emotional responses are, it is important to know that we can express them before God, that we can share our helplessness, our confusion, our anger, and all our questions with God and with one another.
The psalmists, the prophets, Job and even Jesus asked the tough questions:
How long will we have to go on suffering?
God where are you?
God, why are you like a warrior powerless to save?
God, why have you forsaken me?
While in most texts the reason for the people’s suffering is explained by their sin, Job is the one example in the Old Testament who suffered for unexplainable reasons (at least from his own perspective). The reader of Job is being told that God & Satan were testing Job’s faith, but Job was unaware of the reasons for his suffering.
And finally we have the example of Jesus himself who suffered from the rejection of his people, who was tortured and finally killed without having sinned himself.
What then might be the Word of God to us in the current situation of such incredible suffering as caused by the tsunami?
Last week we read John 1, and were reminded that the Word was God, and the Word became flesh in Jesus. God’s word is spoken and revealed foremost in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s most important word to us in face of the tsunami is Jesus.
In Jesus, God has become human, God has embraced broken humanity, God has experienced what it means to be hungry, thirsty, poor, to be threatened, to suffer, to be tortured, to be killed, and how it feels to be forsaken by God.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In the resurrection of the crucified Jesus, God protests against all life-destructive forces, whether inflicted by humans or by nature; and God points to the life of Jesus as the one to be followed by all God-fearing people.
Being faced by hungry people, Jesus fed them with what was available, rather than worry about whether it was enough for all.
Being faced by a blind man, Jesus restored his sight, rather than worry about why he was blind.
Being invited by religiously unclean people, Jesus accepted their table-fellowship, rather than worry about his reputation.
Where can the risen Christ be found in response to the tsunami disaster?
Maybe with the mother who is grieving and crying for her lost child.
Maybe in the doctor who packed his bag to help in looking after the sick.
Maybe in the many people all over the world who are giving generously to the relief effort.
The birth, life, death & resurrection of Jesus shows that God’s power is different to our understanding of power. God’s power is the power of love, which makes itself vulnerable, which often seems helpless and weak. God’s power is a gentle power, willing to suffer with those who are suffering and to trust in the transforming power of love.
May the story of Jesus keep on inspiring us, may the living Christ comfort those who are in pain and create hope within the midst of hopelessness. May all those who are in various ways affected by the tsunami find hope in the words of Jesus:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4)