By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter
are in my heart today is often enough
after the tsunami in East Asia, the news is that
surveying the damage has become a major tourist
attraction. Approximately 157,000 have died, and
thousands more bodies are being recovered every day. The
devastation can be seen from outer space.
Any of us
who have ever followed a fire truck or driven out to see
the aftermath of a train wreck or tornado knows the
feeling of guilt mixed with voyeuristic curiosity that
seizes ones feelings when viewing the results of a
situations are ameliorated somewhat by the fact that the
best in human nature is often shown on such occasions.
Thousands of volunteers bolstered by billions of dollars
are meting out help and healing to these families who
have lost everything. Books will be written and films
will be produced telling the stories of great kindness
and courage. I am sure that we do not begin to know all
the happenings that occurred and that will inspire us
when they are told for the world to know.
calamity often makes an opening for thieves, looters, and
those who would pick the pockets of victims as well as
those who would try to help. Watch for stories of
Internet frauds and charity mismanagement. One TV
commentator is so sure it will happen that he seems to be
looking for it where it does not exist; but he will find
malfeasance somewhere. Human nature always rewards a
pessimist. Indeed, as one of my seminary professors used
to say, a minister finds out what his parishioners are
really like on just two occasions: their weddings and
their funerals. Tragedy throws into bold relief the best
and the worst of people.
to the clergy at such times for answers and explanations.
Churches were full after 9/11, much in the same way that
toddlers rush to their mothers when thunder comes. And
there is much rooting around and culling of quotations
from the best writers on philosophical subjects.
think that silence and humility are the best response.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm
are not satisfied with silence, and so preachers who
think that they are heard for their
much-speaking propose various ideas to
justify the ways of God to men, most of which would
be better left unsaid.
Many times I
have stood by the deceaseds loved ones at the
funeral home and heard every tired old canard that is
offered for comfort: God needed another angel in
His choir, Jesus loved her more than we
do, He was old and is out of his pain.
Mostly it is
best just to say, You are in my heart today.
One of the
best pieces of wisdom I ever heard was from a pastoral
mentor who told me that people would rather have the
security that comes from believing in a God that is in
charge, even if that god is not very nice or even
agnosticism is anti-religious, and there is a kind of
reticence that I think behooves all good Christians. It
was Garrison Keeler, I think, who said, that most people
go up in the estimation of others, when they learn to be
silent more often.
friends did the best thing just by coming and sitting
beside him. It was only when they tried to speak that
they mucked things up so badly. The story of Job is
mostly a demonstration of the inadequacy of human
explanations. Words simply do not suffice for some
situations. The best thing is to go and offer your quiet,
personal gesture of comfort an act that, come to
think of it, mirrors what Christians say is meant when
St. Paul wrote that He left heaven and came down to live
among humans on earth, assuming the role of a servant and
not thinking that equality with God is a thing to be
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