Friday, January 15, 2010

Creation Groans

How can one comprehend a catastrophe such as the current crisis in Haiti?

As I write this I hold a state-of-the art laptop computer. I am in a room with my wife, daughter, son and grandchildren. A pellet stove burns, keeping us pleasantly warm. A video about wildlife babies keeps my grandkids (partially) entertained following our evening meal of take-out Chinese. The lights are on, our water is clean and available; a comfortable bathroom is just down the hall.

My wife and I can hardly bear to watch the destruction on the news. Broken bodies and grief-stricken people of all ages go beyond our capacity for genuine empathy. Emotions shut down. What would I do if that broken arm of a six-year-old belonged to my grandson? What if my wife was likely buried in rubble too heavy and deep for anyone to move quickly? What if there was little hope for drinkable water for days?

How can one comprehend a catastrophe such as this crisis in Haiti?

Our attention is (appropriately) captivated when disaster strikes on such an intensive and concentrated scale. Yet we have learned to "deal" with the countless deaths and vast atrocities that happen every day all over our world. There is ongoing, unspeakable poverty among mass populations from Zimbabwe to India to inner-city ghettos in the USA. There are children who go to bed hungry every night. There are people who die from the simple absence of an antibiotic. This is daily reality.

Our world is broken, basically, because of the deep rupture from rejecting God's authority. Still, God's love is working to call us back.

Throughout history the Church has made a difference. Sometimes Christians have "dropped the ball," but when that happens it is a failure of following Jesus. I look at the crucifix on my study wall and am reminded that God chose to enter our world and be subject to the thing we hate and fear the most: death.

I am a Christian because I believe the Apostolic witness: that death could not hold Jesus Christ; he is risen from the dead never to die again. Jesus did that to open the way for us. That is the hope Christians have in a world where horrible things happen. We believe that death does not have the last word, and that God's love will triumph.

And yet, until the time that God brings salvation to full completion, we are sometimes reminded in awful ways that creation groans (Romans 8). St. Paul goes on to say that when the pain is beyond human words, God's Spirit groans within us.

As we groan with and for Haiti – and seek to respond with sacrificial compassion – we can remember that even as we groan, we hope.

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