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--PSALM 23; HEBREWS 12:3-11; JOHN 10:7-18
Gary Younge, a reporter for the British newspaper THE GUARDIAN is covering the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana. In his article for yesterday (Saturday, 03 September 05) he notes that one senator has given “a prediction that the death toll in Louisiana alone could top 10,000 people” [--http://www.guardian.co/uk/Katrina/story/0,16441,1562005,00.html].
The causalities our service men and women continue to suffer each day in Afghanistan and Iraq are beginning to remind us of Walter Cronkite’s nightly reports on the CBS Evening News in 1960s during the War in Viet Nam. As of the end of August we had lost a total of 232 troops in Afghanistan with 696 more wounded. In Iraq we have lost 1,879 troops with 6,770 more wounded [http://www.unknownnews.net/casualties.html]. In just a few more days we will commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 911 Terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that changed our world forever.
On July 7, 2005, 56 people were killed when four bombs hit London’s public transport system during the morning rush hour. 56 people were killed that day and 700 injured [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_July_2005_London_bombings]. Then as we go back a little over a year ago on March 11, 2004, in Madrid, Spain 191 civilians were killed and over 1,800 injured in the bombing of four commuter trains at the height of the rush hour [http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/ops/Madrid.htm].
With all the evil events in our daily news, I am reminded of the refrain of Barry McGuire’s Number One hit song in 1965 “Eve of Destruction”:
BUT YOU TELL ME
OVER AND OVER AGAIN, MY FRIEND
AH, YOU DON’T BELIEVE
WE’RE ON THE EVE
It’s no wonder that even Christians are tempted to ask the question, “How can a good God allow such tragedies to happen?
Perhaps you are familiar with the greeting or call to worship whereby the pastor or liturgist declares, “God is good,” and the people, respond, “All the Time.” The pastor affirms, “All the time,” and the congregation declares, “God is good.” Many United Methodists use it frequently as a liturgical response of praise. Maxie Dunnam has served as world editor of THE UPPER ROOM, a founding father of the Walk to Emmaus, senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, President and currently Chancellor of my Alma Mater Asbury Theological Seminary. Many people give him credit for this powerful liturgical act of praise, but it actually originated in Nigeria. His wife had a jail ministry in the 1980s in Memphis, and Maxie preached for her on a regular basis. The inmates there introduced them to this African praise greeting from Nigeria [--Personal e-mail RSVP from Maxie Dunnam, Chancellor of Asbury Theological Seminary to The Rev. R. David Reynolds; Friday, August 26, 2005].
Perhaps the place God has used it most powerfully is in another African Nation Liberia. To the Liberian Christian Community this greeting comes out of times of real distress and turmoil. For over fifteen years Liberia was ravaged with Civil War. They are a people who have experienced violence, hatred, and disconnection first hand. Yet it was through these devastating times that the greeting, “God
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