Beliefnet
The following sermon was delivered on Sunday, Sept. 4, at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Atlanta on Sunday. To listen to this sermon, click here

"O Lord, Make Haste to Save Us"

The words were written thousands of years ago, but they sound as if the poetwere watching scenes of the last week.

"Save me, O God,
for the waters have risen up to my neck.
I am sinking in deep mire,
and there is no firm ground for my feet.
I have come into deep waters,
and the torrent washes over me.
I have grown weary with my crying;
my throat is inflamed;
my eyes have failed from looking for my God."

This week, as we have watched the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina unfold, wehave prayed for family and friends who live in the wake of the storm'sdevastation, many of whose fates are still unknown.

We have wept over the fate of thousands who we do not know, but whosesuffering and grief have become our own.

We have watched in disbelief as situations untenable to begin with continuedto deteriorate further each day, making the richest nation in the world lookworse than any so-called Third World country.

We have been outraged and ashamed at the seeming callousness andinefficiency of our government, and been moved to tears by the generosityand concern of strangers who have taken literally God's admonition to "loveyour neighbor as yourself."

As I have watched and listened to the news this week, the words of a songfrom Gordon Lightfoot have continually gone through my mind:

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutesto hours?"

The question raised in the old ballad about a shipwreck on Lake Superior istheological. Why does God allow such enormous pain and suffering to occur?Where is God when the storm waters rise, when there seems to be no help, nohope, no salvation?

That is a question to which there is finally no answer that is fullysatisfying.

But there are answers to that question that I know deep in my soul arewrong.

The flood waters were still rising when those who give Christianity a badname began their predictable tirades. Hurricane Katrina is God's punishmentfor the sins of the French Quarter, for gambling on the Gulf Coast, forreveling and drunkenness.

Others have suggested that God must have some greater and good purpose inthis tragedy that we cannot understand.

None of these declarations should be acceptable to us. To suggest that Godintentionally caused this tragedy for any reason is obscene and nothing lessthan blasphemy.

So how then do we understand such tragedies? Where does the love of God gowhen the waves turn the minutes to hours?

Archibald MacLeish succinctly outlined the dilemma we face in hisTony-award-winning play "JB," an adaptation of the Book of Job.

"If God is all powerful, God is not good.
If God is good, God is not all powerful."

If we have to choose between a god who is all powerful or a god who isgood--and it looks like sometimes we do--then I will choose the latter.

As disturbing as it may be to realize that God is not all powerful--thatGod cannot prevent men from flying airplanes into buildings, or stop thewaves of a tsunami, or call back the flood waters--it is much moredisturbing to think that God is not all good--that God willfully,intentionally causes or allows such horror as we have witnessed this week.

Such a God would not be worthy of love or worship.

God is indeed involved in the sufferings of this Earth--not by causingthem, but by being deeply affected by them. A hymn we will sing in a fewminutes puts it this way, "There is no place where earth's sorrows are morefelt than up in heaven."

This week I must believe that the weeping and lamentations that have filledthe earth have also filled the heavens. I must believe that God's own eyesare weary with crying.

I must believe that although the grief and suffering are of a magnitude thatis incomprehensible to us, that God has felt each and every individualsorrow, has grieved over each death, has suffered with each and every personwho suffers or mourns.

And I must believe that although God may not be all powerful in ways thatprevent hurricanes and floods, God does have the kind of power that bringsgrace and redemption to even these horrors, and gives us the strength tocontinue and to rebuild and to make all things new.

That grace and redemption has been evident in the outpouring of millions ofdollars from individuals across the country and across the globe.It has been evident in those who have been willing to risk their own safetyand lives to come to the aid of those in need.

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