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Japan - Earthquake and Tsunami 2011

A major earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan yesterday, and for those of us watching the news pictures beamed into our homes over these past 24 hours, horrific and terrifying though they are, we cannot really begin to fully comprehend what the people are going through, unless we’ve been there ourselves, like the people of New Zealand (Feb 2011), the people of Haiti (2010), the peoples of Indonesia/Sri Lanka/India (2004).   There is the unexpected and tragic loss of life, the devastation, the fear, the grief, the worry of what will happen next, both in the short and long term.   But even if we have never experienced the loss of everyone and everything we hold dear because of an earthquake or a tsunami, nevertheless, it breaks our hearts to see and to hear what is going on in that country, because we are reminded that they are people just like us, and just like us they have experienced the loss of loved ones, and there our common humanity connects us.

When tragedy like this happens it sort of stops you in your tracks and makes you more aware of what you have, especially the people in our lives whom we love and who are still with us.  It is perhaps also a timely reminder too that we should be telling them, more often than we do, just how much we love them and how special they are to us, because tragedy can strike at any time, and can take many forms.

So what can we do when something like this happens almost half way round the world?

The immediate response of many is to pray.   That was certainly my first thought, and that’s what I did yesterday.  But prayers were also shared today, because in the midst of a local funeral service I was conducting this morning, we took time to include in our prayers for others, the people of Japan.

 “We bring before you, Loving God, the people of Japan.

And as we wrestle now with our own grief …

we are reminded of all who have lost loved ones,

whose lives have been touched by this tragedy,

and who are overwhelmed by sorrow at this time.

We pray for them in their shock … hurt … and bewilderment.

We lift before you their feelings of numbness

and their aching hearts.

Reach out and encircle them in your loving arms.

Grant them the comfort you have promised to all who mourn,

your peace that passes understanding,

your light that reaches into the darkest places of life

and beyond … into the darkness of death.”

I hope the people of Japan are aware that at this moment in time they are being upheld in prayers all over the world.  And I hope you will add your prayers to mine, as together we add our prayers to the countless thousands that have been offered up over the past 24 hours.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Be content with what you have; someone somewhere doesn’t have a fraction of what you have.

Be satisfied with who you are; someone somewhere looks at your life with longing.

Be caring and loving towards the people you have in your life; someone somewhere is lonely.

Be thankful for friends who love you; someone somewhere has no-one who cares.

Be grateful when things are going well for you; someone somewhere is crying as if their heart will break.

Be gentle and compassionate with those you encounter; someone somewhere is carrying a deep hurt.

Be kind and considerate with strangers; someone somewhere needs to know they matter.

Matthew 12:7

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2011.

I am going to try and post at least one image each day for all of 2011. That, hopefully, will be 365 days of the things I encounter through the lens of my new Lumix FZ100. It will probably be a mix of subject matter, but I may well develop a theme from time to time. The first photo was taken at the Weir in the grounds of Crathes Castle, near Banchory, on 1.1.11.

If you would like to see my photos you will find them at the following link …

http://2011inpictures.posterous.com/

Photos taken at River Dee, Banchory, and Banchory East Church

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What if the story was unfolding today?   Would we follow the Tweets as the Magi followed the star?

I know Christmas is some weeks away, but we are about to enter the season of Advent – the time of waiting and preparation for the second coming of Christ.   But I thought now was as good a time as any to remind ourselves of what it is we celebrate in 29 days time – the First Coming of Christ.

“He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.   And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”   

(Philippians 2:7-8)

Just plain hungry

We have just returned from visiting family in California.   During our time there we spent a couple of days in Santa Barbara.   On our first day we went for a walk along the pier and on one side there were a group of people hanging over the rail.   So, being naturally curious, I went over to have a look, and what I saw were people trying to throw coins into a small bucket, placed on blanket, on the beach below.    

Make a Wish

The blanket had a card at the front which said – “Make a Wish”.  In the middle of the blanket was the bucket which people were trying to throw their coins into.  And at the back of the blanket there was another card which said – “Get it in the bucket, and all your dreams will come true”.   And people were raking through their change to find coins to throw; to make wishes and have their dreams come true.

 

Just Plain Hungry

Now just a little further along there was another blanket, another bucket, and another sign which said – “Just plain hungry”.  Now very few coins had been thrown there , and there certainly weren’t people queuing up to do so. 

Two homeless people, two different approaches.   One appealed to the selfish superstitious nature of people, who hoped to get something in return for their few coins.   The other, appealing to the generous, hospitable and caring nature of people.  To put it mildly, I was dismayed at people’s response to the second blanket and it’s plea.   In fact the image and the feeling stayed with me throughout my holiday.    Maybe, it was because just before I left we had started a short series on hospitality and I was somehow more aware, but everywhere I looked I saw and heard the poor, the refugee and the homeless being berated, discounted and marginalised.

In the early second century … Aristides (c 125 AD) commended the Christians on how they lived their lives:

They love one another,

and from widows they do not turn away their esteem;

and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.

And he, who has,

gives to him who has not,

without boasting.

And when they see a stranger,

they take him into their homes

and rejoice over him as a very brother;

for they do not call them

brethren after the flesh,

but brethren after the spirit and in God.

It appears the early church was known by the way she loved strangers.  She was known for the way she loved and cared for those forgotten and pushed aside by society. and those who found themselves alone and vulnerable.

If hospitality to the poor and needy, the homeless, the troubled and the stranger distinguished the early Christian communities from their surrounding society, and became a characteristic of authentic discipleship, then perhaps that is what the church should be reclaiming in our day and age.  

Perhaps hospitality and reaching out to people in need should once again become our focus.