Reflections on the Presence of God After the Storm

The winds howled outside and the rain pelted our house in waves last night as Hurricane Matthew made it's way up the Florida coast.  We awoke with the dull grey light of dawn revealing, trees that were bending and flailing in the diminishing gusts, debris around our neighborhood, but not much else. 

We never lost power.  Nothing crashed into our house.  I even left a bench outside by mistake, and it never got knocked over.  I know that's not the case on the coast of Florida, and there's still more storm to come, but still...  

When you look at the photos of the devastation in Haiti, and even the few photos that have come out of Cuba, it's sobering.  

It makes you wonder, doesn't it?  Why does the same storm barely make a dent in one culture, but devastates another.  I get that there are massive economic, infrastructural and preparedness disparities between Haiti and the United States, to be sure.  

I also get that these disparities can be traced back to historic problems, corruption, exploitation and the like, but it leads me to another, deeper and even more problematic question.  

What is God up to, really?  Are the people in Haiti who lost their homes any less important than someone living in Cape Canaveral, who lost a fence, or a boat?  Is the person who is cured from cancer more loved by God than person who dies from it?  Is God just spinning a wheel to decide who lives, who dies, who gets their house destroyed and who doesn't?

Jesus spoke into this theological problem with his disciples in the context of a lesson on loving your enemies:  
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45)

I've heard this verse used a thousand times to try to answer that question we posed a moment ago:  Why do bad things happen to some people and not others?  In this case, Jesus referred to "sun" and "rain" as blessings, the natural necessities of life--not hurricanes, of course.  And he indicates that these blessings are for everyone--regardless of whether they are good or bad, or whether they believe in God or not.  

Like most of his teachings, Jesus spoke of a God who was nearby, close, present in the middle of both the triumphs and the tragedies.  God loves to be present when there are blessings, life and goodness falling upon on all of God's children--even those who never really acknowledge God's parenthood.  

And God is also present in those moments where those blessings seem absent--where tragedy befalls some and not others.  Further, it's that presence of God that speaks to us when we are compelled to help those who have experienced devastation--the Divine spark that we all share, the deep that calls to deep.  

May you find your own spirit compelled to act and to move toward mercy and justice where it is needed most.  May you come to recognize the beauty of God's presence in every situation and circumstance.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen. 


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