Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina -- One Year On

All of us can recall what we were doing this time last year as Hurricane Katrina came ashore. Truth is, as the power went down in Jackson, most of us were unaware of the scale of the damage on the coast. I think it was only the next day, when a neighbor sat in his car listening to the news, that we understood how extensive the damage had been.

We have had the privilege of the ministry of some of Katrina's victims here at First Presbyterian Church. Some have lost everything they ever possessed, items of irreplaceable sentimental value. It came home to me as I "lost" the hundreds of pictures of my granddaughter last week which I'd carefully filed on my (now) stolen laptop, that these were items I could not replace. But imagine searching amongst the rubble for pictures, or china, or jewelry, or my beloved books and CDs.

Yesterday, in preparation for a class on Patristics, I had occasion to examine once again the first century document known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or The Didache. It is now thought to be from the mid-first century, possibly as early as AD 50, before the Gospels were written and during the time Paul was engaging in his Gentile mission (though the document seems utterly unaware of it). It (probably) originates in Alexandria, Egypt (but advocates for Antioch in Syria put forward a good case, too). It is a training manual for converts to Christianity preparing for baptism. At one point, it has this to say:

"You will accept the experiences befalling you as good things, knowing that, apart from God, nothing happens" (3:10).

It sounds stark and cold, doesn't it. The Calvinistic (of I may be anachronistic) doctrine of sovereignty applied without feeling or sympathy. But this is to misunderstand it entirely. What is the alternative? That things happen without God's knowledge or willingness? That even God is helpless before the powerful forces of "nature"? And where is the comfort in that?

No, as these dear friends in our church have shown us in a remarkable way, trusting God in hard times is the only way to live.

Thank you, dear friends, for encouraging us in your own loss. May you continue to find peace and comfort in the arms of our sovereign Lord who does all things "after the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11). You have taught us much.

1 comment:

Dianne and Woodie Mason said...

Thank you, Dr. Thomas, for your comfort and prayers for us during the recent anniversary of Katrina. We feel your love and concern, and have been ministered to by your preaching and prayers dealing with trials. We know God will use the loss of your laptop for your good and His glory, as he has used our trial in this way over the past year.