Where Is God?

Oct 01 2017

WHERE IS GOD?

The title of today’s sermon “Where is God?” isn’t really the right question, but it’s the question we always seem to ask, isn’t it? It’s the question we ask after a major crime during which many people have been killed or maimed. It’s the question we ask after major natural disasters like the recent hurricanes that have wreaked havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and many other of the islands in the Caribbean. And it’s the question that was asked numerous times after the terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and were barely stopped from flying a plane into the White House.

So let’s start with a few facts that we know about the attacks on 9/11 before we start blaming God for not intervening.

Those four flights together held over 1,000 passengers; and there were only 266 aboard.

God was on 4 commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of the hijacked planes said that passengers were screaming in the background. On one of the flights God was giving strength to passengers to try to overtake the hijackers.

God was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the first jet hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a miracle in itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays?

God was holding up 2-110 story buildings so that 2/3 of the workers could get out. It was pretty amazing that the top of the towers didn't topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward. They didn’t topple over, as many more lives would have been lost.

God sent those who were best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in any way they were needed. It seems to me that God was more present than absent when the tragedy of 9/11 struck.

People have a tendency to blame God for the worst and forget to thank God for the best. The Children of Israel were complaining in last week’s reading about being led by God into the wilderness to starve. We would have thought that God providing manna would have taught them a lesson. But I guess not. This week they are complaining that there is no water for them to drink. Again, God intervenes through Moses. Knowing human nature, I’m sure that this will not be the last time they complain or forget what God has done for them.

In our Gospel lesson, the religious authorities were riled up because they did not like what Jesus was saying. So they resorted to trying to trip Jesus up by asking him by what authority he is doing the things he does and says. Well, that didn’t work so well. Then came the parable of the two sons. One said he would do what his father said and didn’t. The other says he wouldn’t, and did. It’s called second thoughts. Sometimes it’s important to go with our second thoughts, especially if they lead us in the right or a better direction.

So - after the hurricanes that have just hit, what will we think about God? What do we believe about God? And what will we tell our children about this God? That the God we know plays puppet master and sends all these natural disasters to punish us? For what exactly are we being punished? Is God sending these disasters to send us a message about taking care of the earth? Or, in the final analysis, are we contributing to natural disasters by contributing to the conditions that create them and then not putting the right procedures in place to help those in the path of destruction?  Are we denying natural signs around us? And in the process, are we guilty of not taking steps to avert these disasters and then not providing for our fellow human beings in the wake of these disasters?

Are we saying that the God we know chooses not to intervene when it is our responsibility to intervene and help one another and to mitigate the effects of or stop natural disasters and their devastating effects if we know how? Are we saying that the God we know rules everything and gives us no choice in how we manage our lives?

Or, will we tell our children that God loves us? Will we tell them that sometimes people make very bad decisions that impact the lives of other people in very negative ways? Will we tell them that God expects us to reach out and help those who are less fortunate and help them deal with the tragedies in their lives? Will we tell them that the stories about Jesus tell us how much God loves us and how we should live our lives? Will we tell them that WE make choices and WE share the responsibility for what happens in this world? What will we tell them?

Or will be easier to claim that we have no responsibility for how our lives turn out? That we have no responsibility for helping those around us? Will it be easier to claim that if we are good people, no bad will happen to us?

People like to ask, “Where is God?” because they envision a puppet-master God that sits in the heavens and pulls strings to control the people and events around us. Some like to think of God as weaving a master tapestry for each of our lives and we are simply like little ants crawling along the threads that have been placed there for us. What happened to free will? While it is possible that God may know ahead of time what decisions we will make, that does not negate our free will to make them.

On this World-Wide Communion Sunday, we are reminded that through the celebration of Holy Communion, we not only celebrate the presence of God among us, but also the sisterhood and brotherhood of all who on this day celebrate in all parts of the world.

We are all inter-related. As technology becomes more and more sophisticated, we will be drawn closer and closer into one world community. And the relationships we forge as a result of that inter-relatedness will determine the future of this planet.

The past cannot be changed. The future is clay in our hands. Will we, as a people, choose to learn from it and mold that future of peace and love, or will we continue to pursue power at the expense of those around us and doom history to repeat itself? What do you think?

By the way, the right question is “Where are we?” Amen.