On Friday, an earthquake and then a tsunami hit the northeastern shores of the country I called home many years ago. The news has only gotten worse after that. My heart hurts as I keep seeing and hearing and seeing more devastation.
A preacher wants to say something at a time like this. But honestly, there are some questions that I don't have the answers for. If someone were to ask me "Why did this happen?", the most absolutely honest answer I would have to give is "I don't know."
That's not true in every aspect, of course. I know just a little about geology and I know that this earthquake had to do with tectonic plates and fault lines and things like that. The words "I don't know" also don't mean that I think human beings need to remain wilfully ignorant about the world. The "fall" in Genesis 3, was not a fall into knowledge. "I don't know" does not imply a kind of wilfull ignorance, that I think it's better to be 'know-nothings' about the world and how it works.
But theologically, I mean, I don't know why this happened. Unlike Glenn Beck, I don't know that God was trying to tell us something. I'm not even exactly sure what Glenn Beck might mean, except that I think he means to sound ominous.
On the other hand, I don't want to go so far as to say, "God didn't have anything to do with this." I don't want to say that because it seems to imply that God is absent in the face of tragedy. And I know that God is not absent from Japan. God is suffering, dying, redeeming, loving the people of Japan even now. I believe this, just as I believe that God is present with the man I know who is living with cancer, the woman I know who has forgotten who she is, the man whose funeral we will hold on Thursday.
On Sunday we heard Jesus reject the devil's temptations to use his power by making stones into bread, by jumping off the temple, by taking over the world. "I'm not going to take the easy way out and do miracles just to make people believe in me," he seems to be saying. But to be honest, when I see the kind of destruction I have seen this weekend, I wonder if that would have been so awful. I am tempted too.
So Jesus is not using his power to stop tsunamis, or even swoop down like Superman and save people from them. Once in awhile you hear of a miraculous cure for cancer, but most of the time Jesus does not swoop down then either. But still, He is there, yesterday, today, tomorrow. Jesus is there in Japan, Jesus is at the funeral, walking among the people, touching them, loving them, weeping
And I know that there is a miracle in there somewhere.