It is easy to move on from news items a month old. But I would like us to stay with hurricane Irma, breaking upon Barbuda and parts of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti in early September. Besides, the aftermath is very much with the people affected. Not only loss of life on those islands, and then in Florida, but loss of animals, homes and possessions.
It was particularly poignant for me on two accounts. One was the fact that one member of our leadership team has a daughter on the British Virgin Islands. Thankfully all are safe and evacuated to accommodation on another island where there are still buildings standing. The other thing for me was that the Morning Prayer reading for Sept 20 was Mark 10 : 29 – 31, which includes Jesus’ words about ‘losing house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, lands…’
An abiding memory of TV news from September was the man who had taken shelter in a cupboard. He was pictured beside his cupboard, the only item on the site that was not a wreck. There was no roof any longer, there were no walls. When asked what he put his survival down to, he just said: ‘The Almighty…’ in the way only a Caribbean man could say it – with power, conviction and depth.
Some 500 years ago, Martin Luther wrote his hymn: “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, Ein gute Wehr und Waffen”. “Our God is a secure fortress, a good shield and weapon”. We have a version translated by Thomas Carlyle in Mission Praise, but personally, I prefer Bach’s Cantata BWV 80. With its tender arias, this takes some of the warlike language out of the message, which is essentially that of Psalm 46.
If the ground is breaking up around about you, if the waters are raging, then I advise looking at Psalm 46 while listening to Bach’s Cantata. Even better than this would be if you can be in the company of praying friends.