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The Pastor's Thoughts Along the Way

by Rev. Dave Roberts

Nepal. Baltimore.

Need I say more.

The end of April has provided enough fodder to keep the 24/7 news cycles full.

Sometimes I wish for the old days, when news about such events would have come by sailing ship, or maybe not come at all. But knowing or not knowing doesn't change the devastation, loss of life and emotional upheaval experienced by those directly involved.

The pictures and video tell tales of people dislocated from their place in the societies in which they lived. The majority of the black population of Baltimore is saying they have been shut out and cut off from the larger society and abuse by the police has made it worse.

Being on the outside looking in is never a happy experience if "in" is where you want to be. The media wants to focus on broken windows and damaged property. But the overwhelming causes of violence must be addressed. What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 is still true today.

"But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."
– "The Other America," Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 14, 1968

Obviously we need to demand a better way of policing. We also need to demand a better context for living for those kept on the margins of society.

If Baltimore is a situation created by people, Nepal is a natural disaster in which the work of people may have made it worse by old and unsafe construction.

What a helpless feeling to have the earth shake. I remember standing on the 2nd floor of my dorm at UW during a quake, waiting for the top of the building to fall off as I watched the trolley lines bounce up and down. The top of the building did not fall off and the trolley lines still worked when the shaking stopped.

But that's not the case many times, in many parts of the world. Think Haiti and Japan.

These situations leave us stunned and wondering how it could happen. We cry out with the pain and agony of the people. We weep for lose of life and livelihood. We raise again questions about God. Why didn't God do anything?

Where is God? Our Christian faith says that God chose to be in this humanness with us.

"The Word became flesh and dealt among us."

But as much as scripture reveals, we still only "see through the glass dimly", as the apostle Paul says. The biblical witness urges us to seek God not above tragedy—as in controlling the fates of nature and humanity—but rather amid tragedy, suffering with and for us. The cross of Christ tells us that God is present, not causing chaos but entering into it, not sending calamity but suffering through it, not standing over us but holding on tightly to us and promising never to let go.

Wherever there is human tragedy and pain, the incarnate God is there. See you in the meeting place where we may growth more faith-full.

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