The past month has been an horrendous time for those living in the Far East following the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) and the horrific earthquake in China. The scenes we have been shown on television or in the newspapers cannot begin to describe the anguish felt by the survivors. We have seen or heard of those in Myanmar who are denied the aid they so desperately need and yet is readily available - and those in China who have lost so many relatives, especially children in the schools that collapsed.Although aid will eventually find its way into Myanmar, and those trapped in China will be freed or bodies recovered, it will be years, if ever, before those affected have their lives restored. Even then, the memories and pain will last a lifetime.
What are we to say about God in the wake of these horrible events?
God always promises to be an abiding presence with us. Yet, he also grants us free will and so distances himself from the earth unless, of course, we invite him to intervene. As the created universe continues to expand and evolve, so our home continues its birth pangs with sometimes catastrophic results. I believe that God cares about all creation and that the people of China and Myanmar are no less part of God's abiding love than we are. I'm confident that he was with each and every innocent person who died, taking them by the hand and leading them home. We are all precious to God and I am sure that he weeps with us over the imperfections in creation which cause both natural and manmade disasters. While we struggle to comprehend the thousands of dead, God mourns the loss of them all and moves us to be concerned for those who are now refugees.
And God is no stranger to the pain and peril of being a refugee. Soon after his son Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to flee for their lives becoming refugees in Egypt for a time and knew the distress of homelessness and being out of contact with their loved ones. The world has many people like that today, some because of natural disasters, others because of war and the displacement of innocent people. Jesus came to tell us of God's abiding love and concern for all of humanity and reminds us that God weeps alongside us in times pain and tragedy.
So, our first response is appropriately one of sorrow and grief. We offer prayers for the bereaved families and ask God to take into his arms those who are dead. We also give financially towards the cost of providing aid and at St. Mary's we are collecting money for the Shelterbox charity in Cornwall in support of the work they are doing in both Myanmar and China. If you would like to contribute to this, please contact someone from the church or go to the Shelterbox website at www.shelterbox.org
All of us are aware of the importance of dignity in our human nature. It is dignity which makes us human, and also calls us to mourn its loss when disaster or war intrudes. We are all reminded by these disasters of the uncertainty of life and our dependence on God for the preservation of our souls. In love, God calls us to live as if we believe it, mourning and sharing with those who have lost so much, and to make every endeavour to restore their dignity.
Wherever the summer months take you - whether it be to foreign parts on holiday, or simply on a journey of reflection about the fragility of life, I hope you will encounter the living God and experience his love filling your heart.
With all good wishes for a peaceful summer.