Four hurricanes. Two earthquakes. Wildfires and monsoon flooding. The devastation is overwhelming. Many of us know someone personally whose life has been turned upside down. We worry about loved ones we have not been able to contact. Our hearts ache for people we see on TV standing outside collapsed buildings trying to hope.
Along with our worry comes a complicated mix of other feelings. The massive scale of the disasters awaken a sense of powerless. The hurricanes, for me, also stir anger and guilt that we have not done more to reduce our human contribution to global climate change. For many of us, they prompt a basic question: where is God in the devastation?
Along with our feelings of powerlessness and anger, these disasters stir our deep desire to help. We have heard of acts of heroism–ordinary people who risk their lives for a stranger. We have also learned about people who devote their lives to preparing for these moments. In the face of such intense need, the things that divide us sometimes fall away, bringing people together to save lives.
These helpers offer the best answer I know to that basic human question: Where is God? God is in our impulse to help. God is in our courage and compassion. God is in the hand that reaches out, the hug given a frightened child, the prayers that really do make a difference.
Hurricane season will end, but the struggle to rebuild lives will go on for years. Our challenge as people of faith is make courage and compassion a way of life, not just a momentary response to crisis. How can we be there for our kindred in Puerto Rico and Texas and Mexico City for the long haul?
Our challenge as people of faith, also, is to bring that same courage and compassion to address the root causes that make natural disasters worse. How can we reduce our carbon footprint? How do we alleviate the poverty that makes people more vulnerable to storms? How do we reverse the draining of swamps that intensifies flooding?
Over the last few weeks, Edwards Church has raised $4000 for the UCC Disaster Relief Fund. Because the UCC has partnerships in all the affected area, we are able to identify and address needs quickly and make plans for long-term rebuilding.
This Sunday, as part of our Blessing of the Animals, we have an opportunity to give as well to an effort to address a root causes of natural disasters. The Tree for Life program is a partnership between the UCC and the Organization of African Instituted Churches to plant trees all over Africa. The trees will help reverse the deforestation of the continent, ultimately reducing the danger of both drought and flooding.
There is so much need. When we come together with people of faith and good will, we can ease suffering and help rebuild lives. Together, by the grace of God, we can be a source of hope for our world