My husband wants us to visit Mount St. Helens in Washington state, which he visited with his parents as a child. After its famous 1980 eruption, a river of brown sludge, rocky and sulfuric, flowed out of the collapsed northern face of the volcano. When Tyler saw it in the mid-90s, the trees had all been burned away or blown off. Nothing on the blast side was green that he recalls. Recently, though, he’s been looking at photos that show life is returning to the area. Grasses, bushes, wildflowers, and some short, scrubby trees are coming up, despite a prolonged eruption from 2004-2008. Tyler would like to see this.
The terrible things which occur on the earth, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, wildfires and floods and death, are powerfully frightening forces. Throughout history, humans have tried to predict and circumvent disasters. Today we flee from hurricanes and install tornado sirens. We study volcanoes and applaud firefighters.
The appropriate response to both life and destruction is awe and reverence that connects us to God. We may not feel like rejoicing in the midst of loss, as we stand in knee-deep flood waters or piles of rubble that used to be a home. Jesus did not demand joy or adulation from Lazarus’s mourners either. God understands pain. Jesus experienced grief. In time, however, when the waters recede and the rebuilding is complete, we can rejoice that God turns over the soil and brings life where there was once destruction.
What is one way you can help a community recover from a natural disaster? If your community has experienced such suffering, how will you help a neighbor?
God, it may just be a song, but it feels true to say, “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Help us to see you through the tangible acts of love that we offer and accept today. Amen.