Tag Archives: disaster

Acts of God?

Recently, I’ve heard, read, and watched different supposed Christians who want to take all the hurricanes and fires and earthquakes and ascribe them to God as if GOD had evilly created a plan to punish people with Hell on earth in the nasty now-and-now…
And other people who try to use these events as reasons to “prove” that there is NO God anywhere, nor has there ever been.
In response, today, I want to share a great resource actually written and published by the denomination to which I belong: The United Methodist Church.

Ask the UMC: How do United Methodists understand human suffering from natural disaster?

A tire swing sways in the wind from Hurricane Rita over the remains of a beachfront home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Ocean Springs, Miss. Rita made landfall in East Texas Sept. 24, 2005, nearly four weeks after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

A tire swing sways in the wind from Hurricane Rita over the remains of a beachfront home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Ocean Springs, Miss. Rita made landfall in East Texas Sept. 24, 2005, nearly four weeks after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi.

Ask the UMC: How do United Methodists understand human suffering from natural disaster?

Sometimes the devastation is overwhelming. The waters rise and the rain won’t stop. The ground shakes beneath our feet, or the wind blows the roofs off homes. Sometimes, even the side of the mountain roars into town. The problems seem insurmountable, the destruction beyond our comprehension.When tragedy strikes, it is common for us to ask why. We turn to our faith for answers, but answers don’t come easily. We wrestle with making sense of the suffering we witness, in light of our Christian faith. Questions are left unanswered. The tragedy is not explained.In a sermon titled “The Promise of Understanding,” John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, says we may never know. He writes,

“[W]e cannot say why God suffered evil to have a place in his creation; why he, who is so infinitely good himself, who made all things ‘very good,’ and who rejoices in the good of all his creatures, permitted what is so entirely contrary to his own nature, and so destructive of his noblest works. ‘Why are sin and its attendant pain in the world?’ has been a question ever since the world began; and the world will probably end before human understandings have answered it with any certainty” (section 2.1).

The short answer is: We do not know why natural disasters and other suffering are part of our world.

Did God do this?

While Wesley admits we cannot know the complete answer, he clearly states that suffering does not come from God. God is “infinitely good,” Wesley writes, “made all things good,” and “rejoices in the good of all his creatures.”

Our good God does not send suffering. According to Wesley, it is “entirely contrary to [God’s] own nature, and so destructive of his noblest works.” Suffering is not punishment for sin or a judgment from God. We suffer, and the world suffers, because we are human and part of a system of processes and a physical environment where things go wrong.

God with us

In another sermon titled “On Divine Providence,” Wesley again writes of God’s love for humanity and that God desires good for us. He then adds how God is always with us, even in the midst of tragedy. Wesley shares,

“[God] hath expressly declared, that as his ‘eyes are over all the earth’ [see Psalm 34:15; 83:18], so he ‘is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works’ [Psalm 145:9]. Consequently, he is concerned every moment for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for everything that befalls any of the children of men. It is hard, indeed, to comprehend this; nay, it is hard to believe it, considering the complicated wickedness, and the complicated misery, which we see on every side. But believe it we must” (paragraph 13).

This is good news. While we cannot fully comprehend the why, we know that God is with those who suffer. Note that Wesley says God cares for “every creature.” We are never alone in our suffering.

In our experience, we know that tragedies happen to Christians and non-Christians alike. As Jesus said, “[God] makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The good news we proclaim is that God is with us through it all.

A different question

When Jesus and his disciples encounter a man born blind, the disciples ask Jesus the question we are asking. “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Jesus, why does seemingly arbitrary suffering occur?

Jesus’ answer, “Neither he nor his parents,” tells us that the disciples are asking the wrong question. “This happened,” Jesus continues, “so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Jesus asserts that it is in our response to suffering that God is found, in moments of everyday grace and in grand and sweeping gestures of care and solidarity with the suffering. God’s mighty works are found in hospitals and nursing homes and shelters.

Jesus is calling his disciples and us to a ministry. We are to join Jesus in displaying God’s mighty works. We are an extension of God’s presence in the midst of the tragedy as we come beside those who are suffering in ways we don’t comprehend. We are to be agents of healing, working to restore God’s order to people’s lives and communities. We are to be representatives of the day of resurrection to come, as we seek to rebuild and renew.

In our United Methodist congregations, we join together in these ministries. We assemble flood buckets and work alongside those who shovel the muck from floodwaters from the floors of their homes. We rebuild homes. We stand in the gap alongside the suffering. We support our local food banks, help build houses in our communities, take care of one another’s cars, visit those who are ill and imprisoned, and so much more. We are also active in our communities, working to change systems that inflict suffering on people in our communities.

In the aftermath of tragedy, we give witness to the love of God. In our outpouring of support, we proclaim the value of every human life. As we grieve with those in mourning, we share the love of God. When we send supplies through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, we witness to God’s provision. When medical professionals bind up wounds, Jesus is shown as a healer. When homes are rebuilt, we proclaim resurrection.

We may not know why things happen, but we embrace the ministries of healing, renewal and reconciliation to which Jesus calls us, and in doing so, God’s mighty works are revealed.

Related:

Turning to the Bible when sorrow strikes

‘Jesus wept’: Finding God’s comfort when times are bad

 

Have questions? Ask the UMC. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

First published Aug. 31, 2017.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Church Leadership, compassion, Disaster Relief, Methodist

The Wrong Donations – Some Tough Words on Disaster Relief

I have heard of MANY places starting collections of money or supplies or whatever to help in Texas…

PLEASE READ THIS FIRST (from one of the Texans working the disaster).

If you want to give money, the UMCOR (United Methodist Committee of Relief) turns around 100% of your donation and it gets to those in need in Texas. (Many groups take a percentage out first for their administrative fees… sometimes leaving little for the victims of the disasters).

Thanks!
DAYTON

 

Source: The Wrong Donations – Some Tough Words on Disaster Relief

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, compassion, Disaster Relief, Response

The Dam That Could Not Break

from  “The Flame” (Clarks Mills, PA United Methodist Church newsletter)
    Today marks 100 years since the failure of the Austin Dam not far from my hometown. My daughters & I had a chance to visit the ruins a few summers ago. Growing up just about 30 or so miles away, I had vaguely been aware of the September 30, 1911 failure of the dam & the ensuing flood. But I had never stopped to see the remains.

     In 1909, on the wisdom of the latest experts, the dam was deliberately designed backwards from conventional wisdom. The flat side of the dam wall was built to face the water & the dam’s sloped section faced downstream. The idea, supposedly, was that this would provide an even greater strength to the structure. It was claimed that this would be a “dam that could not break.” In fact, when flood survivor Marie Kathern Nuschke wrote her eyewitness account of the event almost 50 years later, she entitled it: The Dam That Could Not Break.

     When people would question the logic and/or the safety of the dam, the engineers & owners (& even other residents) would simply laugh & say things like: “That dam will stand when you all are dead.” Nuschke wrote that there were two people who were adamant in their concerns about the dam, Sarah Willetts & William Nelson. Not only were they summarily dismissed, but most of the community laughed at them as well. And despite their misgivings, they stayed in Austin. Later, when the flood did in fact come, they too were killed.

     As I stood there in the midst of those remains reading names of those who died in this tragedy, I was reminded of how many times such conceit & overconfidence resulted in equally disastrous effects.

     I’m reminded of the arrogance & pride of the builders of the Titanic who claimed that “Even God couldn’t sink this ship.” And yet, sink it did. The lack of concern over the safety of the local residents in Austin reminds me of the stories of the owners of the South Fork Club that disregarded safety warnings & their dam eventually burst & wiped out much of Johnstown, Pa. just two decades earlier in 1889.

    What started as a chance to stretch our legs on a long trip, turned into a time of hearing the Lord speak to me about three things. First, just because experts claim something is safe or “everyone else agrees” with an idea, neither makes it safe nor right. After all, following the crowd and going with the majority assures you of Hell, not Heaven. Secondly, Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, & haughtiness before a fall.” Unbridled arrogance & pride, especially without compassion, is a disaster just waiting to happen. Third, I sensed a great deal of grief for those two people who had seen the danger & had tried to warn others, & yet did not escape. It reminded me that it’s not enough to know of the danger or even to tell others. We need to also take care of ourselves. Spiritually, it’s the same way. It’s not enough to know that there is a Hell, or even to warn others. If we haven’t accepted Christ & established our own place in eternity, then we won’t escape either.

     Finally, as we left, I stopped at the little bridge that leads into the park and snapped this picture of Freeman Run, the water source the Austin Dam had tried to block to harness the power of the water. Yet without the proper respect & attention to its dangers, this tiny little brook caused the death of dozens. It was a reminder to me of the effect & importance of paying attention to the seemingly little decisions in our lives, for they can have grave consequences later.

     As I drove away from that memorial that day, I found myself comparing my attitudes and decisions to those of the ones behind the disastrous failure of the Austin Dam a hundred years ago. How about you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Learning From Old Mistakes???

This was my pastor’s letter in our church’s monthly newsletter for this month…

My daughters and I visited the ruins of the Austin Dam earlier this summer. Located in Potter County, not far from where I grew up, the failure of the Austin Dam and the disastrous flood that resulted on September 30, 1911, was part of our local history. But what started as a quick stop to stretch our legs as we drove home from grandma’s house, became an emotionally moving experience… and a reminder of spiritual truths.


According to the “experts” of the time, when the dam was started in 1909, it was deliberately designed backwards from conventional wisdom. The flat side of the dam wall was built to face the water and the wall’s sloped section faced downstream. The idea, supposedly, was that this would provide an even greater strength to the structure. It was claimed that this would be a “dam that could not break.” In fact, when flood survivor Marie Kathern Nuschke wrote her eyewitness account of the event almost 50 years later she entitled it: The Dam That Could Not Break.

When people would question the logic and/or the safety of the dam, the engineers and owners (and even other residents) would simply laugh and say things like: “That dam will stand when you all are dead.” Nuschke wrote that there were two people who were adamant in their concerns about the dam, Sarah Willetts and William Nelson. Not only were they summarily dismissed, but most of the rest of the community laughed at them as well. And despite their misgivings, they stayed in Austin. Later, when the flood did in fact come, they were killed as well.

As I stood there in the midst of those remains, reading names of those who died in this tragedy, I was reminded of the many times we have seen such conceit and overconfidence… with equally disastrous effect.

I’m reminded of the arrogance and pride of the builders of the Titanic who claimed that “Even God couldn’t sink this ship.” And yet, sink it did. The lack of concern over the safety of the local residents reminds me of the stories of the owners of the South Fork Club that disregarded safety warnings and their dam eventually burst and wiped out much of Johnstown, Pa. in 1889.


What did the Lord speak to me in this visit? First, just because “experts” claim something is safe or “everyone else agrees” with an idea, neither makes it safe nor right. Second, Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (NLT) Unbridled arrogance and pride, especially without compassion, is a disaster just waiting to happen. Third, I sensed a great deal of grief for those two people who had seen the danger and had tried to warn others, and yet did not escape. It reminded me that it’s not enough to know of the danger or even to tell others. We need to also take care of ourselves. Spiritually, it’s the same way. It’s not enough to know that there is a Hell or even to warn others, if we haven’t accepted Christ and established our own place in eternity then we won’t escape either.


Finally, as I left, I stopped at the little bridge that leads into the park and snapped this picture of Freeman Run, the water source the Austin Dam had tried to block to harness the power of the water. Yet without the proper respect and attention to its dangers, this tiny little brook caused the death of dozens. It was a reminder to me of the effect and importance of paying attention to the little things in our lives.

There was a lot for me to think about and pray about as I drove away from that memorial park that day. How about you? Can we learn from history? Or do we have to make our own mistakes every time?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized