Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami Tragedy

Much has been said on other blogs about this disaster. No words can quite describe the kind of emotions that well-up from the matter-of-fact reporting of heart-wrenching stories in the media. There are so many people affected and so many stories to tell and so much raw emotion already that the reporters don't even seem to have a need rehash the same news story endlessly. I cried while I was reading the papers this morning. It's just the terrible loss of lives and the fear that most of the dead died while still God's enemies... Then again, I'm the type of person who tears when I read of deaths and see from the obituaries that the dead didn't appear to take the chance while alive to believe and be saved. Death is so final and so certain. There is no more hope of repentance after death, and so no more hope of salvation. In that way, the death of one unrepentant person seems as tragic as the deaths of tens of thousands of others of that same status.

As Christians, this recent tragedy has reminded many of us of our view of reality and forced us to take a stand on our worldview:

Common questions asked have been:
  1. why did God cause this to happen? (did he? or is this a result of the Fall: when humanity fell, the earth fell with them (Genesis 3) so that now the whole creation groans (as we do) as it waits for its redemption, together our adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8)); and
  2. God is sovereign: why does he allow suffering? (same reason why he allows sin...he has provided a way out. On his terms. According to his own timing. Who are you O clay... etc etc...).
Common points of reflection are that:
  1. this jolts us into remembering the reality of the second coming of Christ, the judgement that will occur on the last day and so the urgency of telling people the only way to get saved from God's wrath on that day;
  2. this reminds us of the meaninglessness of worldly things;
  3. this warns us that Jesus will come at a time that we do not expect and that we must be ready to give an account to him then;
  4. this makes us long even more for the coming of Christ, a time when all things will be made new and God will wipe every tear from the eyes of his children; and
  5. this is a good opportunity to tell people how to be saved from God's rightful wrath;
yet:
  1. it is biblical to grieve and mourn the loss of so many lives, especially of people who died while still God's enemies;
  2. it is biblical to assist the victims in any way we can, materially and spiritually; and
  3. it is biblical to give thanks to God that he has put Singapore at just the right geographical location so that although we are much nearer the epicentre than many worse-hit countries, all we felt were slight tremors in along the southern coast.
and we trust that somehow, God is working through this tragedy to bring about his plan in his good and perfect way.

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, wrote the following letter to the clergy. I reproduce it here because it contains useful pointers:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I know that the recent catastrophic disaster in countries near to Australia will have saddened and troubled you. I write to urge you to address the issue, especially at church services this coming Sunday. Even if you plan to be away, it would be good to make sure that those responsible for the services are briefed on what to do.

First, I suggest that we pray for the nations involved, for those who are suffering loss and for those who have been injured. A great deal now depends on what is done to offer help and to repair the damage. We ought to pray that appropriate aid will be speedily at hand, that disease will be checked and that there will be no outbreak of lawlessness. Much depends on the efficiency of local government agencies and on the justice with which help is given. I suggest that we could use the Lord’s Prayer as a template for our intercessions.

Second, I believe that the matter needs to be addressed at a pastoral level, through the preaching of God’s word. The scriptures provide a rich resource at moments like this, and I hope that you will be giving thought to the theological issues raised by this event. There are many aspects to this, including our common humanity with those who have suffered, our responsibility to help, the need for justice in the distribution of aid and the succour of the victims, the sovereignty, judgements and mercy of God, the tribulations of human experience and the brevity of human life, as well as the need for us to think of our own situation before God.

Third, I suggest that you give some advice to those who wish to give money for the relief of those in need.

Fourth, although Australian casualties seem to be relatively small in number, it may be that someone in your parish has been affected. Even if they are not connected to the church, I hope that you will feel able to let such people know that the church fellowship is praying for them and willing to help in any way needed.

This letter comes with my warm greetings and prayers for the Lord’s continued blessing on your ministry in 2005.

Archbishop Peter Jensen
December 2004"

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Forgotten Victims of Humanitarian Disasters

What the Singapore Armed Forces are doing to help

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