Last week I heard Barbara Brown Taylor lecture on "Learning to Walk in the Dark" and "On being a Christian, Now". For those who know her work, it would be redundant for me to say she is an incredible word smith. She paints pictures and experiences and invites the listener in.
On Saturday morning her focus was on walking in the dark. That walking by faith and not sight invites one to discover which way the winds blow. Walking in the dark opens up new senses for us and new ways of experiencing God.
My favorite phrase she used was "we need to allow God a certain amount of privacy." The ways we think or speak about God are "provisional" because we cannot know God fully. As she pointed out, God comes often in ways that disguise the Divine Self, a burning bush, a pillar of fire, in a still small voice. Even the name for God, "I Am who I Am" is pretty unrevealing.
I am remembering these words as the horror continues to unfold in Japan. Already there have been preachers who have claimed the earthquake and tsunami are God's judgments for _______ and you can fill in the blank. I saw a facebook post that said this:
I don't know where this person found it, they are not the kind to create this kind of post. However, it brought back Barbara Brown Taylor's point, "We need to allow God a certain amount of privacy." In my opinion, it is the height of arrogance to look at this world and the natural and unnatural disasters and state "what God is doing". Jesus said, "no one knows the hour or the day", and yet people state God is judging/punishing and attempt to speak for a God who is transcendent and greater and more mysterious than we can possibly imagine.
The world is a fragile and finite place. Bad things happen, and the response of people of faith is to do what they can to alleviate suffering, not to make blanket and trite statements about who "sinned" or didn't "sin" as the case may be. Perhaps remembering the words of psalmist makes a great statement of faith, than checking to see if one is "ready" out of fear. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." (Psalm 46: 1-3)
As I pray for the people of Japan, for all those who are offering aid and help and the response from around the world, I will give to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) because 100% of my gift will go to Japan to help relieve suffering. I will find ways to combat judgments and condemnations, for in the end, I believe that God is greater, more loving and more amazing than I can possibly imagine. And in having faith in that God of love I remain
Graced to Serve.