Tomorrow has been declared a day of national mourning by Australia's Prime Minister, in which churches are encouraged to hold services of remembrance. Our community has now held three different times of reflection and prayer, as well as promoting a fund-raising event, which gained quite a lot of community support.
While I appreciate the gesture, does it comes across as almost too late? After all, it has been nearly three weeks since the tsunami struck, there has already been a very broad community-based response, and the effects will be felt for months, even years. Cynicism towards governments in such circumstances isn't abated when it is discovered that much of the aid money promised doesn't eventuate, or is made in the form of interest-free loans, thus burdening these poorer countries with even greater debt.
Australians have been responsed with great compassion, and it is a great encouragement to see people's open-hearted generosity.
News today of a survivor who spent fifteen days floating on the sea after the Tsunami washed him off his Indonesian island... Mind-boggling! Geologists are recalibrating the Andaman Islands to measure the impact of the earthquake. Satellite images of Trinkat island show that it is now two islands - the water having cut it in half. The earth's rotation has been affected, slightly changing the earth's shape and shifting the North Pole by 2.5cm. By every measure this has been an event of cosmic proportions.
But it still causes me to ask whether we can really call it a 'natural disaster'? We have spent decades drilling through the earth's crust in search of oil, which we have extracted from below, and replaced with something different (alien?). Explosions, both tests and exploration, continue to rock the sea bed in different places. The air is polluted, the flow of rivers disrupted and polluted, the ecological balance constantly shifted... We are playing with dynamite and every now and then it comes back to bite us. While we naturally ask where God was in it all, we ought to pause and ask what humanity has done that has sparked it all.
BTW, one impact is that every day is shorter by 2.68 microseconds. Does the time seem to be passing more quickly????
Our neighbour is still awaiting news of a close friend missing in the regions affected by the Tsunami. Up the street I discover that one of the workers in a shop there is also missing.
As we prepare for our effort in response to the needs of Southern Asia, we are reminded that it is not remote from any of us.
Preparing worship in the context of this devastating tsunami, with its impact on so many, means one cannot avoid looking at the images, and reflecting on the stories. A child floating for two days on a door... a dog waiting (in vain) beside its owner's bags - somewhat reminiscent of the Dog on the Tuckerbox... families elated to find those who were thought drowned, and those who were devastated to be confirmed in their worst fears.
There are so many unanswerable questions. How does one worship in such a context?
Psalm 88 is the blackest of all psalms - the only one which does not end with an affirmation of praise. Instead it ends with the words "the darkness is my closest friend".
It is a reminder to us that worship is an act of faith, in which we ought to acknowledge the realities of the moment, and our own understanding of God in the midst.
It is fitting that we celebrate communion, and are reminded of the brokenness by which God has reached out to rescue us.
Having last week reflected on the Slaughter of the Innocents, it seems that our worship themes have sadly come together.
One's mind has difficult getting itself around the magnitude of the disaster in the wake of the tsunami. With a death toll continuing to rise, and forecast beyond 100,000 - not accounting for the many more who will die from disease as a result of the collapse of infrastructure, this a numbness hard to shake.
There is, underneath the numbers, an immeasurable volume of human pain. Who can understand? Yet, somehow, God is present in the midst...
Our Sunday night reflection on the Slaughter of the Innocents in the Gospel Birth Narratives holds a new poignancy. Image of the Week provides a doorway into this reflection.
We have been busy over recent days taking account of all our friends who are in the regions affected by the tsunami. This is a disaster which has probably left few nations of the world untouched in one way or another, given the tourist areas impacted.
We have posted a prayer on our notice board outside the church which reads "Out of the chaos, may peace and hope be born anew."
It is a disaster of a magnitude hard to grasp. Reports of the earth shaking on its axis as a result are a cause of wonder. I know that many communities have had more than this occur.
"I am cursed with a long life"
These words of 70-year-old Jayanta Lakshmi, uttered following the death of her only son and twin grandsons in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India are a poignant symbol of the unfolding tragedy engulfing millions of people.