Since we wrapped up our most recent set of podcasts, things have fallen a bit silent here on Church Drunk. Sometimes life gets busy. And busy turns into crazy. And crazy turns into utter, incomprehensible insanity. And then, suddenly, life is very different than what it was before.
It has been a month and a half since Hurricane Harvey put Houston underwater. In the few weeks between then and now, hurricanes have continued to pound the Caribbean, earthquakes have shaken Mexico City, Las Vegas witnessed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, wildfires have ripped through California, and today bombs rocked Mogadishu. There are no words to match the images that we see on the nightly news, and the list of the dead grows with each passing day. We lift our eyes up to the mountains. Where does our help come from?
It is in times like these, situations that make us feel helpless and hopeless and small and defeated, that we can develop a true appreciation for why the language of faith is spoken so freely among the poor and the downtrodden. When life contains very few material blessings, the vibrant imagery of the scriptures come to life and provide hope. Look at the readings for today. When you are hungry, the promise of a rich banquet in God’s kingdom may not fill your stomach, but it certainly fills your soul. If you don’t have a home, it truly means something that you are invited to live in the house of the Lord all the days of your life. When friends and neighbors are missing and presumed dead, the assurance that God is bigger than death helps us to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we build toward a better tomorrow. The empty tomb is located in neither Israel nor Palestine. It is here. It is now. It is in our midst, and it gives us life.
The language of faith can help us to step back from our own sense of hurt and helplessness, and it is then that we can more clearly see the work of God through human goodness in those locations stricken by disaster. We are quick to honor the first responders who put themselves in peril to save the lives of others, and rightfully so. The countless stories of courageous individuals working long hours in dire circumstances to serve communities in need provide us with hope and real-life heroes. But there are other stories, as well. Stories about regular people uniting to preserve and rebuild entire communities. Stories about evacuation centers literally overflowing with donations and volunteers. Stories about people looking beyond their own needs to fulfill the needs of others. The divine spark planted in the heart of every man, woman, and child is meant to shine most brightly in the darkest corners of our world, and it does.
A few weeks and a lifetime ago, we took a look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, those friends of Daniel who danced in the flames of the fiery furnace. There is, perhaps, no greater image to provide hope in our current surroundings. Three humble servants of God hold fast to their faith, and even in the worst of all possible circumstances they find a way to dance and sing of the goodness of God. On a good day, the story seems like an oddity. On a bad day, as the world around us burns, we find that it is most definitely a story with a heart for the oppressed. We hope to never find ourselves in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or in the lion’s den with Daniel, or in the belly of the whale alongside Jonah, but when we do find ourselves there we can be grateful that others have gone before us and still found the goodness of God ready to comfort them in those times of need.
All of the talk of recent natural disasters, of course, says nothing of the ongoing humanitarian crises around the world that we, ourselves, are causing. In the face of uncontrollable forces of nature, those tragic situations where humanity actually does have a say in how things go but chooses not to preserve life and wellbeing can seem so much more absurd. We cannot stop an earthquake or calm a storm, but we can lay down our weapons, open our doors to refugees, and pursue peace at all costs. As communities around the world are faced with long years of reconstruction, the fact that small and powerful men can talk of nuclear annihilation continues to redefine injustice for a new generation of global citizens. Apparently, it will be up to the rest of us to turn the tide.
To the people of Napa, Sonoma, Houston, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, the Florida Keys, Domenica, Barbuda, Mexico City, Mogadishu, and all people around the world for whom the light of hope may be dimming: Know that we mourn your losses alongside you, and we stand with you as you rebuild. We pray that you will continue to sing your song proudly, and that someday soon you will again be dancing in the light of God’s unending love.
-Diz & Ges