Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Water into Wine

The last week has been filled with images of Haiti and the suffering that is taking place there. It is hard to imagine what people must be going through - those who have been trapped in darkness under the rubble for days, those who have watched their loved ones die, those who have lost limbs, those who have been hungry and thirsty, those who don't know if their loved ones have survived. I feel so helpless being far away and unable to do something with my own hands. Giving money just seems shallow and callous, even though I know it is probably the most helpful thing I can do personally. And I have been surprised that people I know are personally affected. It seems odd to be just a few connections away from people who have been personally affected; friends of friends or acquaintances who are there on mission trips. The whole thing makes the world feel so small and the connections so significant, and yet the disaster seems a world away. And what an outrage it was to hear what Pat Robertson said about this disaster being God's punishment for the Haitians for the deal they had made with the devil. What rubbish! I hope every right thinking, theologically astute Christian will stand up and shout down such bad theology! That is not the God that I know and worship, and I resent that Christianity is cast in such a light. Anyway, I diverge...

A few days ago, I was driving home coping with a disappointment that had to do with my job. I was pretty upset. In my mind, I went back and forth between my own troubles and the troubles of the people in Haiti. I felt petty in my disappointment, but still angry at what had happened for me. I thought about what the Haitians were going through and what I was going through. My troubles were really minor irritations in comparison. Even though I knew that intellectually, I was still upset for myself. So on top of all that, I felt selfish and self-centered. What a mess! When a disaster like Haiti happens, we are reminded of how fortunate we really are. I have a home and food and water. I have a family that is surviving and thriving and that I love and enjoy being with. I have everything I really need in this life, and it is all blessing. How can I complain about anything?!

On Sunday, I preached at one of the local churches. The scripture lesson was the story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. Even that scripture story seemed petty in light of the events in Haiti. It almost seemed silly to be studying it. But somehow, this story was significant enough to be included in the Gospel, even when it is followed by the rest of Jesus' ministry of healing and teaching and dying. The passage ends with a note that the disciples saw the miracle that Jesus had done and believed in him. The point of the story of the water into wine is one that works in any situation. Even in small things, like a social situation where a couple runs out of wine at a wedding, God is known and seen and present. If God is present in the small things, than how much more is God present in the big things?!

So one of my resolves is to view the situation in Haiti through the lens of God's presence. In every story I hear or fresh tragedy that happens, I can ask myself to acknowledge and appreciate how God is present. I can be grateful for the efforts of all those first responders, for the willingness of those doctors and nurses to give their time and skills and place themselves in danger for the sake of those in need, for the huge sums of money that are going toward helping the Haitians survive and rebuild, for the reminder of how destructive national debt can be for a poor nation, for the recovery of another survivor from the rubble, for those amazing dogs that sniff out the living, for the peaceful singing in the streets of those who suffer so much, for the coming together of international efforts, for the food and water that is reaching those in need, the list could go on and on. With the Haitians, I proclaim "Thanks be to God!" again and again. Have you not heard them say it over and over again? I will say it with them.

And when it comes to my own little problems, I can remember the Haitians and how God was present in their tragedy, and put my life back in perspective and give thanks to God. It seems silly to do otherwise.

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