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  • Added March 6th, 2011
  • Filed under 'Prayers'
  • Viewed 2510 times

When I am afraid: prayers and reflection after the quake

By Linda Cowan. in Prayers

Excerpts from worship in Christchurch on the Sunday following the earthquake.

An outdoor service of worship was held at Redcliffs, Christchurch, on February 27, 2011, led by Linda Cowan.

Leader: When I am afraid, I put my trust in God.
People: God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble.
Together: Lord, we cry out to you. Be present with us in our worship. May we know your comfort and your strength as we come together in your name.

Loving God, we come to worship you from the chaos into which our lives have been plunged. Some of us have lost members of our family. Some of us have lost our homes. For all of us life has been changed. We have encountered fear that comes back to haunt us. We have seen huge destruction. Not just our city but the foundations of our lives have been shaken. In the midst of all of this, God, we come to you. We come because we have known you with us in the midst of this trauma. You have walked with us in the hard times and in the tragedy we have encountered. We have known your presence holding us up as we have dealt with the challenges of each new day. We thank you, God, that we can know for sure that nothing can separate us from your love.
We thank you, God, that we have seen so many signs of love and generosity in the midst of disaster. ...

There are so many signs that love is stronger than evil, and because of this, we know we will survive even though the days ahead will be hard. And so, Lord, we worship and praise you. We know you - the God who loves us, the God who upholds us, the God who forgives us, the God who strengthens us.
Be present with us, in this time of worship together. Fill us with the love, the power and the strength that comes from you.

On Wednesday morning after I had queued all morning at Burnside High School to get my niece on to a flight to Wellington, it was very nice to get a text from friends who had water and power inviting me for lunch. "We're having soup", they said. "Comfort food seems to be required in circumstances like these." And I have to tell you it was great, both the soup and the company. So when I started putting together my service for today, I decided that I would try to offer you "comfort food". That's why we are singing some of the old hymns that I hope will be familiar to all. When it comes to Bible readings, everyone will have their own favourite verse or verses that they go back to in times of need. Psalms contains many of my favourites, and was an easy place to find an Old Testament reading, but the New Testament was not so easy. I wondered what the reading was that was perhaps the most familiar in the New Testament and it seemed to me that it probably had to be the Good Samaritan. But that didn't seem particularly helpful to us in the midst of the Canterbury earthquake. And then I started to think.

You see, we always tell this story from the point of view of the people coming down the road after the man had been mugged - and that's because Jesus told it in response to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" But there is another side to the story. Let's think about it from the point of view of the man who was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The first question I have is why he was on this road to start with. It wasn't a good place to be. This was a remote route with a bad reputation. You wouldn't want to be travelling along it on your own if you didn't have to. So why was this guy setting out on a journey that he knew was fraught with danger. Perhaps it was a family crisis. Was he taking money to a sick relative in Jericho? Was he rushing to confirm a business deal on which his future depended? Whatever it was, he wasn't able to organise someone to travel with him before he embarked on this risky journey. This was a journey that implies some sort of necessity or crisis.

He set off, and as most people would have predicted, he was set upon by robbers who took his clothes and his possessions and beat him up, leaving him at that side of the road half dead. Now when I've thought about this story in the past, I've always thought about this man lying unconscious on the side of the road, possibly bleeding, but certainly not making a noise. In my head at least he was silent. So when the priest walked by on the other side ignoring the man's distress, it was easy to do because all he had to do was avert his eyes. It had never occurred to me that he might have to close his ears as well. But I'm sure he did. Most people who are beaten up don't stay unconscious for too long. When they come to, they start moaning and calling for help. This has been why rescue teams have been listening for the noise of life in our buildings in the CBD. So I think this man would have been calling out for help, moaning, distressed, and seeking aid. He wouldn't have been just lying there and easy to overlook. This of course, makes the action of the Levite and the priest all the more shameful. They didn't just choose not to notice the man lying there; they deliberately ignored his cries for help. Then of course the Samaritan arrived, the hated foreigner. But race was no barrier in this instance. He heard the cries of the man; he gave him on site first aid; then he took him to a place (the inn) where he could get longer term care - and he paid the bill.

I think as we continue to deal with the aftermath of this earthquake we need to be both like the wounded man on the side of the road and, as we are able, like the good Samaritan. We have indeed been "beaten up" by this earthquake. We have lost loved ones, homes, possessions. Our hope for the future is dulled. In this situation we need to cry out for help, and keep crying out until we get it. It doesn't matter where it comes from. But if we are to continue, we cannot do it alone. We are as a race very hesitant about asking for help for ourselves. We have that wonderful Kiwi can do mentality that allows us to cope with an awful lot. But this outside the bounds of what it is possible to cope with unaided. It is true too that everyone's levels of what they can cope with vary. I have a niece who was here for the critical 24 hours last Tuesday and who is simply not able to cope at all even though she's back in Wellington. Some people have fled the city, knowing that they can't cope with any more right now. I know for myself, if the last time is anything to go by, that I'll be fine for about a fortnight and then I won't be. We all know ourselves well, and what we can manage. But these are exceptional circumstances . I think we need to remind ourselves that Jesus told us to love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves. We in the church are very good at loving other people. We won't stop doing this. We will all be looking out to see what we can do for our community, being salt and light for the world. But we can't do this if we don't keep the light burning inside ourselves. We need to be kind to ourselves, to spend time with family and friends, to talk through the experiences again just to get them out of our systems, to go away for a stretch if that's what we need, and to be prepared to ask for help as and when we need it. Some will find strength in words of scripture and prayer. For others ,at a time like this, God seems far away. These people will need the support of others to shine the Christ light for them for a time.

For us as a church community we can help with this by looking out for each other. We are the body of Christ. If we are to reach out to our community - and I know you will be doing this already - then we need to care for those who make up the body. Some of your number have very special needs at this time, and I know you will be surrounding those people with your love and support. But the reality is that we are none of us really OK. I remember in the September earthquake thinking that I was managing really well. I went to the bank to deposit a cheque and the teller said, "So how are you managing?" and Linda, the coper, the resilient one, burst into tears. We all need the chance and the safe places to do this. As a church this is something we can do for each other. Then united in God's love, strengthened by our membership of God's body, the church, we can go out to live and to serve as God's people in our community.

So this morning I invite you to think about the man beaten up on the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho calling out for help, and to feel OK about calling out for the help you need. Remember that Jesus said, "Love other people as much as you love yourself." Try to build into everyday something that shows that you are special and worthy of care. God knows that you are.

Present in the earthquake, as in the fire and the flood,
not as cause but as companion,
God of life and love be with those who are suffering
in and around Christchurch.
Wrap them around with hope
and fill them with courage for the days ahead.
Give comfort to the grieving,
and strengthen those who are waiting,
searching, hoping and helping.
Show us how to be agents of healing,
bringing rebuilding and restoration
where there is brokenness,
when the time is right.
in Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer by Jennie Gordon, Mooroolbark, Victoria, Australia.

God be your comfort and your strength,
God be your hope and support;
God be your light and your way;
and the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life,
be with you and remain with you now and for ever. AMEN