Friday, 15 January 2010

Sweeping in the dust, praying and acting for solidarity with Haiti

WCC, LWF, ACT and YWCA staff gathered to pray. People from Haiti living in Geneva joined us, many of them still waiting for news of their own loved ones, some already having received the worst news of all. The situation on the ground in Haiti for the agencies was outlined by colleagues from ACT before we began our prayers.
A powerful and moving time linking our work with the reason we undertake it. Diakonia - service bears witness to Christ and the God of all compassion.
As we lit candles and even beforehand, tears fell, names were read out ... we sang and we kept silence, and we prayed ...
You can find our prayers here. I've posted the full text of my sermon below rather than to the docs section.

Sermon on Luke 15.8-9 - following the earthquake in Haiti
Preached in the Ecumenical Centre Geneva, Friday January 15th 2010 at Midday.

Understanding disaster is impossible
God may just about manage such understanding but for we human beings even attempting to understand leads us to be caught in a strange place between rage, distress and grief, a place where there are few words, a lot of doubt and an emptiness of feeling, a lostness.
There is no easy way through these powerful feelings.

As we face the disaster of the earthquake in Haiti, as we ask "why oh Lord?" our lamentations and questions have as much to do with the pre-existing abject poverty of so many of the people of Haiti as they have to do with the reasons for natural disaster. Haiti was in need of an earthquake of justice and mercy. Not this. The poorest are always disproportionately affected by natural disasters. So much precious, beautiful human life and intelligence lost in the dust and rubble - so much risk of disease as the living receive basic treatment outdoors next to the dead. So much to do … so much chaos…
And just how long do we continue to hope for news of our family and loved ones, our colleagues, our fellow aid workers? Even as we give thanks that some of our precious colleagues have been found in the hotel rubble, we know also of tragic news.

How many 100s, 1000s, 10,000s 100,000s?
Each precious and loved by someone and by God.

Understanding disaster is impossible
Yet God does just about manage such understanding.
And God’s understanding begins with a broom and a lamp.
Jesus offers us a powerful image in Luke's gospel of God bringing light and sweeping in the dust, searching and searching until that which is lost is found. It is a beautiful picture, a feminine picture, speaking of the compassion and effort of a loving God for those who are lost in whatever way - those of us lost in fear and grief for news of loved ones; those lost in the dust of resignation, rage or distress; those lost in real dust and rubble; those lost in a nearly destroyed civil society.
This parable of grace can speak to all of us faced with lostness, it speaks of a God taking very practical action - a broom, a light, some hard work - to restore and redeem that which is lost. Very ordinary and necessary practical work, work often done by the least valued in our societies migrant workers, women - even in this house. God's hands get dirty in this painstaking work. This dusty work speaks to us as we seek to support and mobilise the practical action and commitment of our churches and their aid agencies in Haiti. It speaks also of the work that lies in the years ahead to rebuild Haiti in so many ways.

Understanding disaster is impossible
Yet God calls us to take up broom and lamp and bear witness to the love and compassion of Christ in all situations.
In a world facing so many disasters, both natural and human in origin, let us pray that God will continue to come in grace with lamp and broom to redeem our lostness and grief, and search out the lost coin of global and local solidarity.