Dear Edwards Church Community,
Just when we thought nature could not be more destructive, it was. Maria followed Jose and Irma. An 8.1 earthquake rocked Mexico one week after a smaller one. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus knew the lament of Psalm 22 so well he spoke it on the cross. He felt abandoned, an experience many of us can share.
Jesus also told his disciples whom to consider a neighbor, i.e., a person we are called to love as we love ourselves. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made clear that strangers, members of other religious and ethnic groups, even people we consider “enemies,” are all our neighbors and deserve our help when they need it. After being willing to cross several social barriers to come to the aid of a stranger who was beaten by robbers, the Good Samaritan told the keeper of the inn where he left the stranger to recover that he would pay whatever the inn keeper had to spend on his care. Now that’s a neighbor we would all like to have!
Nature unleashed a series of destructive events at the end of the summer this year. The Southern United States, Mexico, Guatemala and many Caribbean Islands are littered with the ruined homes and battered lives of literally millions of neighbors. Puerto Rico alone is home to almost 3.7 million and an unfolding humanitarian crisis. Barbuda, way out in the eastern Caribbean, home to 1,600 (0 after evacuation), also took a direct hit from Irma. Neighbors of very different circumstances need help.
You have responded, as individuals and a community. At the church picnic, we packed 30 disaster clean-up buckets for the UCC partner Church World Service. Some of the church members who helped are pictured below. Even more were involved. All these buckets will be well used. We also sent a $1,000 contribution to the UCC Disaster Ministries.
The commitment and resources we share provide a firm foundation for our ability to keep the commitment expressed in our vision: “Finding strength in our diversity, we call on all our gifts to worship and serve. Encountering the world’s joys and suffering, we offer ourselves as instruments of love and justice.” Together we are able to respond more fully as needs arise, and they always will.
As the season for planting and growing turns to the season for harvest, I hope we will continue to remember our neighbors. They need our prayers, and they need our willingness to send concrete help in every form we can spare. Leaving the sanctuary recently, a member of our community reminded me that the UCC organizes church groups willing to travel to hurricane damaged areas to help with the middle to long term rebuilding effort. Imagine going with Habitat for Humanity to Florida, Texas or the Caribbean and you begin to see where this could go. Do not be shocked if that member stands up next spring to ask for volunteers to go work for a week.
And that does not mean taking our eyes or helping hands away from nearby neighbors. It does mean that together we can find more ways to help than we ever could alone. When we follow the example of the Good Samaritan, we respond first in our hearts and then find a way. This not mean becoming careless. It means being willing to find ways to live into the commitments that come with being any sort of Christian.
By the end of Psalm 22, the voice of lament shifts to thanksgiving: “For God did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.” Communities of faith are – and are called to become always even more so – organized movements of people committed to living out their faith in ways that are both good in and of themselves, and show others what being people of faith means. Thank you for being and doing that. It makes others say, “God did not hide her face from me.”