SERMON for Sunday after the Earthquake, 26th September 1999

I suppose that if I were to ask, what were the two words that sum up this past week, you might say Fear, and Thankfulness.

I, like everyone else was swamped with calls and e-mails from concerned people all over the world: relatives, friends, former parishioners, and even people I have not met before...all wanting to know how I was, how were the people in the church, how were the those who were directly affected. Also they assured me of their prayers their sadness for the people of Taiwan and could they help. I have had five definite offers for material help from Japan, Canada, Australia, USA and the UK. The list will no doubt grow as the time goes on. My fear was touched and healed with thankfulness that others had cared to do something and offer some consolation. I was humbled and thankful.

I will now read some of the messages that I feel summarizes what most people said that I received by e-mail.

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  1. 1.  From Bishop Henry Scriven, Suffragan Bishop In Europe who was my Bishop before coming to Taiwan
Just to assure you that you are all very much still in our prayers.

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2. From Japanese Christians I didn’t know until now

God's blessings from Okinawa!

The news about the earthquake which hit Taiwan this morning was indeed a shock. Being a neighbour island, we are very concerned about your welfare. We have you in our prayers.

If there is anything we can do, please let us know. We are very interested to know how the people and the church fared.

All Souls' Church, Chatan

Okinawa, Japan

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3. From my Japanese Friend who came to visit Taiwan earlier this year.

Are you OK? Are your families OK? Are Taiwan Sheng Kong Hui people are OK?

Yoshi Mikami

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4. From a Serbian and Greek couple who are close friends

Dear Father,

Katherine and I were appalled by the shocking earthquake particularly since the Greek one is also fresh in our minds just after the Turkish one. I hope you are all right, but I understand this earthquake is a massive one and we are very sad about the deaths and injuries. Our prayers are with you and the victims.

Alexander

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5. From former congregational members from Belgrade Yugoslavia. They were refugees from Sarajevo and now live in Canada.

All those horrible pictures, first from Turkey, and now Taipei. What is going on with this our World? Then why people make all these Wars when we must fight with Nature? It is so horrible and not understandable.

We are still praying to God that for You and all those people we don't know, and we hope that all those numbers of victims were not true.

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All of these messages were people centred, they were all concern for others, they all want to help and pray. And from the last message from the refugee couple are words I wish to remind you of: “Then why people make all these Wars when we must fight with Nature? It is so horrible and not understandable. We are still praying to God that for You and all those people we don't know, and we hope that all those numbers of victims were not true.” What a challenge these thoughts present!

Of course while the tragedy in Taiwan unfolds, south of Taiwan the people of East Timor face continual terror and starvation. Indeed, this year has had many natural and man-made disasters. Just over a month ago there was a catastrophic earthquake in Turkey, another one in Greece, typhoons in many places and the worst in central America and wars all over the place. The ordinary everyday citizen of the world is overwhelmed with all the man-made and natural disasters.

There indeed are many things that give rise to fear, but when we think a little more there are also many things to give thanks for. While the pain, and horror of these disasters continue, the first fear is healed because some one noticed the others’ fear, and went, and helped. The first fear was now being healed with thankfulness.

How can we reduce fear, and is it our responsibility to do so? As Christians the answer is both clear and simple, yes we must! It is what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded, it is what he spent his whole life doing, it is the mission he left us to continue, it was what he prayed for to his Heavenly Father. Jesus noticed others, he saw what troubled people, he did something about it, in talking, in healing, in praying, in reprimanding others for not noticing others, indeed, the Bible says he became very angry with people who didn’t care to notice others. His whole life was spent noticing and doing for people he had never met before, people who were not of his own nationality nor religion. In everything he spent time with people undoing their fears and building up their trust in themselves , in others, and finally in God our Father. Jesus saw in each person the potential image of the loving one God, he did not see a Chinese, or westerner, he did not see an alien or foreigner, he did not see black, white or brown, he did not see male or female, he saw only a human being, needing a release from fear, to be able to give thanks. We as Christians have not got a good historical record or reputation for doing so, we are neglectful by not noticing others. We now have a real, live living challenge, in this place, to begin to change our attitudes and to share our doing live faith with others, to go out to care. Others can only begin to know a living Christ when they see Christ alive in us. If we now notice the fear that others have, we can do something to help, and so become more sensitive and responsive to others. To follow Christ is not an idea or a ritual, it is a life of reducing fear and giving thanks.