Rector's Ramblings - September 14, 2023
One of the things that has stayed with me from my sabbatical travels a couple of years ago was the realization of just how big this country is. We traversed 20,000 miles between the RV and the car that summer. It reminded me that this world is very, very big, and I am very, very small. Sure, I’ve seen the visualizations on those videos where they zoom out from street level out into the universe, when even our solar system becomes an infinitesimally small pixel on the screen, but there are moments when it becomes real. Recent natural disasters have had a similar effect on me.
Setting aside our brush with another named storm, which ended up being much milder than we feared two weeks ago, the news out of Morocco and Libya this week is both heart-breaking and sobering. The death toll from the earthquake in Morocco is already approaching 3,000 souls, with countless more displaced by damage and facing incredible suffering. The storms that dumped so much rain on Libya caused a pair of dams to fail up the valley from a coastal city of Derna. After catastrophic flooding in that city that the death toll stands at 6,000 with estimates that it could climb as high as 20,000 souls. Frankly, I have trouble making sense of those numbers. That’s comparable to the population of St. Simons Island.
That’s a lot of people to die in one week, to be sure. But even these figures are infinitesimally small when we think of them as a percentage of the world’s population. It works out to something like 0.000003%. Regardless, it’s still a huge number. It’s even larger for those affected by it directly, because these aren’t just statistics, they are people, lives, loved ones, children of God. Individually, each of these people is very small in a very big world, but we know they are more than that. That we are more than that, too. I’m quite confident that while God can look upon the creation in its totality, God also knows and loves each of us as unique individuals.
A parishioner recently sent me a video that shows various configurations of people as grains of rice, one grain for one person. It can show the difference between an artist on stage, a single grain, and a pile out in front, representing the audience. It’s a visual representation of otherwise meaningless numbers when it comes to counting human beings. We’re not lost in a generic sea of humans under God’s eyes, however. God knows ever grain of rice by name, and what’s more, knows every hair on our head, too. That’s a God who knows us well, and who cares what happens to us.
Many, many people have died in the last week, not only in in Morocco and Libya, but in Ukraine, or while crossing the sea for a better life, of hunger because food wasn’t available, as the result of illness or accident, or simply because their bodies failed with age. Every single one of them was blessed by the presence of God as they drew their last breath. Every person who grieved over their death was surrounded by God’s love, who shares in our pain and grief, simply because it’s what we experience. The Incarnation, Jesus, to be precise, assures us that God chooses to be a part of our human experience, suffering and all. And at the very same time, God is able to welcome God’s beloved children home to that place prepared for them. Our hearts may break with the news of loss so great we can’t even understand it, yet we take comfort in the truth of our faith: God’s love is very big. And fortunately, in God’s eyes, so are we.
Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn. And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.