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Being the body of Christ

WHERE WILL the hope come from?

We are currently faced with the greatest natural disaster that Queensland has ever faced. The loss of life, destruction of property, farming and grazing land, the inundation of homes and businesses has destroyed many dreams, livelihoods and shattered families.

How we respond to this event is a major challenge to all of us. It is a major challenge to the Christian church.

Many have looked to us to help them make sense of this experience.

I want to congratulate all who have given themselves energetically and generously to assist those who have been most seriously affected.

Soon many will ask the question, “Why did God let this happen?” assuming that if they had the answer they would find some hope. I give you permission to refuse to answer that question.

Even if we knew why it happened, the mud would still be there; people would still have lost their loved ones, homes, valuable possessions and businesses.

Answering “why?” is not as helpful as people imagine.

Christians usually come up with terrible answers to this question.

There are some such answers doing the rounds on the internet at the moment which are not only embarrassing for Christians, but will only add to the pain and confusion felt by so many. I learnt very early in my ministry that even if we could answer the question “why?” it would not be of any help to grieving people.

We live in a culture that believes that if we have the answers it somehow makes things better. That is not true.

When people ask “why?” they usually really want to know how they can cope with such an event or where they can find hope.

Psalm 121 says: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Our hope comes from God, but that hope will need to be made present in our communities. As Christians we believe that God has been made known to us in the person of Jesus, God incarnate; God with us.

In the face of grief and suffering Jesus did not try to answer “why?” – rather he simply was present with those who felt the pain and injustice of human living. As Christians, the body of Christ, we are simply called to be collective reminders of the presence of Christ. That is why I spent a day mucking out a stranger’s house.

Heather, Helen and I spent several hours carrying out filthy stuff from a family’s home and washing out one room. At the end of the day it seemed so little. It seemed insignificant in the scheme of the mess and destruction we saw around us.

There was still a tremendous amount that needed to be done if the family was to be able to move back into that house. I don’t know whose house it was. They didn’t know who we were, but hopefully we helped to be the presence of Christ in that home and street.

I know that many of you have mucked out homes and businesses, provided food and sustenance, offered shelter, listened to the pain and despair, and prayed.

Together you have been the body of Christ. Continue to be like Christ.

Weep with people, lament with people, be angry at God with people, stand alongside and help people where you can. Speak words of encouragement and hope.

I want to remind you that God is with you; the whole Christian church is with you.

We have heard from the United Church in Solomon Islands, the United Church of PNG, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, the Protestant Church in East Timor, the GKI West Java Synod, the Church of North India and a Methodist Church in the United States. We have received expressions of support from other synods and the Assembly.

These greetings, financial contributions and practical help are reminders of God’s presence.

Our hope is found in God and expressed tangibly through God’s people; those who know God personally as well as those who may not even be aware that God is using them.

Let us continue to live as the body of Christ and in all we do and say become reminders that God is present among us.