Neil Willard, formerly rector of an Episcopal church here in the Twin Cities, is now rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston. He and his family (whose home was not flooded) have been working tirelessly in aid of those who have lost so much. (The amount of food his wife Carrie has been cooking nonstop could probably fill a barn by now.)
On Sunday, Neil preached his first sermon after the flooding. Rejecting some of the things we often hear after some natural disaster, Neil said
The storm that killed those whose bodies have completely filled the city morgue, and whom we’ll remember in our prayers today, isn’t divine retribution. And it isn’t part of some divine plan, as a few streams of Christian theology might suggest, in which someone’s pain is required to show forth the glory of God. We aren’t better people because tragedy of one kind or another didn’t befall us. And we most certainly aren’t better Christians when we stand at a distance and affirm that “everything happens for a reason.”…
He went on to say
At the center of our faith stands the cross. So it should come as no surprise that right in the middle of the Nicene Creed we declare that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate . . . suffered death and was buried.”
This statement anchors our faith not only in the pages of history but also in every experience of God-forsakenness. It brings our faith into the suffering of the world, where God himself has led the way. Perhaps to the surprise of many, we stand beside those who raise their fists to heaven in moral outrage over innocent suffering. That’s because what they protest isn’t God but things that are the enemy of God….
God isn’t the source of discord — the chaos in the world and within us. And God is not pleased with such freedom abused. Yet God is able to create anew, bringing good out of evil and the chaos to an end.
You can read the entirety of Neil’s sermon here.
Carrie Willard’s blog lists some local organizations that could put donations to good use.