During the past month, national events in the news have shocked us all. The terrorist attacks at the Ariana Grande concert and on London Bridge, claimed the lives of so many, and numerous others were badly injured. Shortly after these events, a terrible fire swept through Grenfell Towers killing large numbers of people, inflicting horrendous wounds, both physical and emotional and making people homeless. Others, living in similar tower block accommodation, have been left fearful for their own safety. And, as I write this, news has just emerged about the Finsbury Park attack where a van drove into Muslim worshippers outside a Mosque.
As I have tried to pray, following these events, I have struggled to find words, conscious that no vocabulary is adequate to express the devastation which will have been caused to those directly affected by these disasters. When events like these happen, it is easy to find ourselves asking questions like 'Why did God allow this to happen?' or for us to apportion blame or to become very angry.
I have no clear answers to these questions. There are many issues I would like put to God. I certainly do not think that God causes these things to happen but I do believe that he walks alongside people in their pain and urges us to do the same. In the Bible, there are many stories of lament. In the book of Jeremiah, Rachel weeps for her children because they are no more. The book of Job is all about a good man who is plunged into darkness as his children are taken from him, and as he loses his health and his livelihood. In fact, his wife urges him to give up on his faith, but Job refuses to curse God. He does, however, debate the problem of human suffering with his friends and this culminates in God speaking to Job and enabling him to recognise that God is immeasurably great and unknowable and is rooting for him. Such passages can never take away the intense pain and agony caused by recent tragedies but they do reveal people who have found God in the midst of their despair.
In the Gospels is that well known parable of the Good Samaritan, where a Samaritan man helped his Jewish brother. Since recent events, it has been moving to see people reaching out to help those in distress, whatever their background. Ariana Grande returned to England to put on another concert with fellow pop stars in tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack. Many have provided food, clothing and shelter for the families left homeless after the Grenfell Tower fire. And faith communities are joining to support one another and have talks about beginning to tackle the extremist ideologies held by a small minority. And across our country people, of all political persuasions, joined in the Great Get Together to remember murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.
After these tragic events people are working hard to rebuild community and that will be very painful and will take time. None of us know what lies ahead, but I believe that Christ urges us all to continue reaching out to support one another regardless of faith or background and to work together to promote a world of peace and unity.
Light a candle in the darkness
Light a candle in the night
Let the love of Jesus light us
Light a candle in the night
With love and prayers,