Stuck on roof tops

‘Those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will perish as they did.’

There was a time when, in searching for who to blame for catastrophes, people used to think those who are suffering must have done something to bring on the disaster. Jesus is outraged at the idea. Again, in John chap. 9, they ask if the man born blind was to blame for his plight or were his parents? Again, Jesus was indignant.  It was neither.

No one can look at the pictures coming out of Beira, or read the reports without being deeply moved by the suffering of the more than 500,000 people affected.  The idea that it was somehow their fault strikes one as grotesque.  If we are looking for explanations we can mention those long ago who chose to found a city on such low-lying land, some of it below sea-level, without building the defences against the sea like the Dutch did. How much the cyclone is normal in that part of the Indian Ocean and how much it is a result of global warming is another issue?

In reply to the question about the man born blind Jesus says, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him.’ Now, what does that mean? We see limitation everywhere.  There are people born blind and others living with intellectual handicaps.  There are people living in poverty or in war zones or in the path of cyclones.  There are people oppressed in their place of work and so the list lengthens.  Jesus is indignant at the thought that they are somehow to blame.

The people he does hammer are the ‘blind guides’ and ‘hypocrites’ who ‘honour God only with lip-service while their hearts are far from him.’  These are the people who could make a difference to peoples’ lives but they don’t.  They have the power but not the will.  They don’t care.  They are too busy feathering their own nests.

What is wonderful is the mighty effort made by so many to rescue those in distress.  There were still people clinging to trees and roof tops without clean water or food for days and there is still (23 March) a constant effort to reach the last endangered people.  Helicopter pilots have to concentrate mightily to hold their machine in place while a member of the crew at the end of a rope tries to extricate a starved and weakened person from a tree.  The generosity and dedication of so many is in itself a revelation.  Many of those rescuers might not name what they are doing, ‘the works of God’ but all this is part of the ‘one great act of giving birth’ to a new humanity.

24 March 2019            Lent Sunday 3 C

Exodus 3:1-15             I Corinthians 10:1-12             Luke 13:1-9

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  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton

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