Year C Epiphany 3 Luke 4 Haiti
Job 1: 13-21
Questions are so hard to answer in tragic times. But we ask questions nonetheless. If you were to take a tour of the Bible you would find that one book has a more disproportionate number of questions than any other. Which book is that? It is the book of Job. Job has over 330 questions in its 42 chapters. The first book of the bible, Genesis, only has 160. Matthew, the first book of the New Testament has around 180. And that's odd because it seems that Jesus was asking questions every time he opened his mouth. Even the book of Psalms with its 150 chapters has only 160.
So why does the book of Job have so many more questions? There is a very simple reason. It is because the book of Job deals with a horrible tragedy.
Here is what happened. Job is a righteous man. Greater than all others. A hedge, a barrier, is set around him, his family, and his business. Suddenly, without warning, and for no reason other than his being blameless and upright, his family and business is wiped out. In the middle of the business of everyday life two rogue groups conduct a raid taking away Job's livestock and putting his servants to the sword. Then his family is lost in a freak accident when a mighty wind sweeps in from the desert, strikes the four corners of the house, collapses it, and all are lost.
It was swift. It was unwarranted. It was unconscionable.
A very large hit and hit hard. In many ways the events of this past week seem eerily echoed in the story of Job. Why is there then such a similarity between the events of Job and the events of this past week? It is because, even though 4000 years separate the two events, life, and I mean the things that make life meaningful, have not changed at all. Not even over 4 millennia. We all must make a living. We all love our family. We all want security. We all want a home.
So what do we do in tragedy? We do what Job did when he learned of his loss.
We mourn. He was silent when he received the first two reports that his business and livestock had been wiped out. But when he received the news that his children were lost. He got up and tore his robe. Then, he feel on his knees and mourned: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will return." In other words, everything that had meaning in his life was gone. As he came into this world so Job felt he was leaving it: Barren.
As the news poured in, I saw images of children lying in the streets all alone as crowds thronged past. Bodies lined up on side of the street: Dads, moms, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I have no doubt there is someone here this morning who knows somebody who has been to Haiti or lives there. The news has shown us their faces and told their stories and the mourning has rippled across the country. We mourn for every family lost. Every family torn apart. We weep for Haiti. We mourn because of their loss...
Samaritan’s Purse has deployed emergency teams to Haiti to distribute medical supplies, water purification equipment and shelter materials. Those interested in helping the survivors of this disaster can contact Samaritan’s Purse by mail at P.O. Box 3000, Boone, N.C. 28607; by phone at 1-877-567-8989; or online at www.samaritanspurse.org.
The Upside Down Life
I confuse "inversion therapy" with "aversion therapy."
"Inversion therapy" helps alleviate back and neck pain by taking the usual gravitational press we live with and literally "standing it on its head." One method is to strap your feet into boots and hang upside down like a big bat. Rosie O'Donnell once did this on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, I think. Another method is to strap your whole body to a flat surface that then completely flips upside down, the body suspended head down, feet in the air.
Inversion advocates claim when you exercise while in this upside down position - in other words, when you do sit-ups or torso twists upside down - you are helping your squished, painful vertebrae to expand, realign, and even regenerate. Strengthened by exercise and set free from the constant compression of gravity, sore backs, stiff necks, arthritic hips, can all relax and literally "take a load off."
But here's the rub: When our perspective is turned upside down, it is not usually very comfortable. Things look different. Things feel different. Things work different. Things ARE different.
The world of the Haitian people has turned terrifyingly and tragically upside down. What used to be ceilings and roofs are now floors and heaps of rubble. The center for Haiti's commerce and government has become the center for devastation and loss. Where there had been roads, there is now impassable ruin. A 7.2 earthquake is no respecter of persons. Both the rich and the poor are homeless, helpless, and hurting. Port-au-Prince is gone. Nothing is the same. Things ARE different.
What turned Haiti upside down has changed our world as well. Last week the perspective of America was also forced upside down. Remember the tyranny of terrorism and the muscle-flexing of military might that has kept our eyes and energies focused on the far away middle east? Suddenly overnight the natural disaster in Haiti snapped our hearts and hands back to this side of the world.
Remember the national debate on the need for "full body scans?" Suddenly we were frantically trying to help free bodies from the rubble and ruin.
Remember obsessing over how to keep airliners in American airspace terrorist free? Suddenly we were rushing airplanes filled with emergency supplies and rescue workers to land at an airport that for a few days didn't even have any air traffic controllers. Pilots had to guide themselves in by chatting with each other, and the tarmac looked like a shopping mall parking lot on Thanksgiving weekend.
Remember sending our troops into a country armed with the latest weaponry? Suddenly we were sending our troops into a country with food, water, medicine, rescue dogs, earth moving equipment, communications devices.
Who among us has not heard hearts breaking at the horror of the new realities confronting Haiti? But being turned upside down has released a healing spirit of humanity and compassion around the world. And as we identify with the Haitian people, we know we all stand on fragile crusts of earth that can shake us up and shake us down, at any time and any where.
Turning things upside down, shaking up perspectives, shaking down assumptions, was Jesus' specialty. Jesus taught "inversion therapy" from the moment he began to speak in public until his final breath on the cross...