We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just an Accident

The community of Lowville, NY, has been rocked recently by the apparent drowning of a well-liked custodian from the local school—apparent because his body has not been recovered, which makes the boating accident doubly tragic.  The custodian was out fishing with another custodian on Lake Ontario, and their boat capsized in storm waters just one hundred yards or so from shore.  One man lived, one has apparently died.  Inevitably, in a generally conservative, fairly religious community like Lowville, the thought comes "naturally" that God was somehow involved.  One can find passages from the Bible that would support such an assertion.

As a pastor, I have to wrestle with the question of why these things happen more frequently than I like.  My faith in God in Christ simply does not allow me to accept the assertion that this accident was God's will.  In the Book of Genesis, God became angry with rebellious humanity and wrecked havoc on the world with a flood (Genesis 7-9), and at the end of the story of that flood God promised never to do such a thing again.  God promised never to destroy us by way of cataclysmic events, which I take to be large or small—the whole planet or two guys out fishing.  In a modern world view, what this means is that our divinely constructed universe is not dominated by a whimsical, distant, and emotionally distrubed god who wills some to suffer, others to prosper.

It was just an accident.  Accidents can be caused by any number of factors, often more than just one.  Sometimes, they are fatal.  More usually, we are thankful that we escaped with no or little consequences.  Some accidents become stories that we tell time and again—about the time this happened & that almost happened & how lucky we were.  It was just an accident.

So, then, God is not involved at all?  That is not what I mean.  I believe as a matter of faith that God is present in healing, in knitting the wounds of grief, and in the ways in which people come together in the face of death and hurt.  God is not present in our world as a stern, judgmental parent-figure who sits on the rim of the universe pulling strings to punish us for supposed sins.  That is a childish, if widely held view of God.  God is Present in our lives as Spirit, a healing, mending, creative presence that brings good out of chaos.  The Spirit is the silver lining we affirm to be found in every storm cloud.  God does not execute our loved ones.  God is the One who is present in our tears, sharing in the pain, and working quietly to bring our hearts ease.  I don't know why things are this way, but I do believe that embedded in it all is a larger purpose that is evolving us away from chaos and toward Eden and that in that larger purpose we find healing.  Amen.