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Hurricane Katrina

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Father Aristotle Damaskos

The following sermon is provided by Father Aristotle Damaskos of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio.

Hurricane Katrina Sermon
11 Sun of Matthew

September 4, 2005

This past's week our country has been in the state of shock with the death and devastation as a result of Hurricane Katrina which brutalized the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The pictures of people on the roofs of flooded neighborhoods, the destruction of homes and business and lost of life and senseless looting, once again leave of us with the question, Why?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. How can we figure out why a Hurricane gains strength into a category 4/5 storm and does, what it does. Is there an explanation to why the storm surge was over 25 feet high? Is there any rhyme or reason why some areas were targets and where destroyed and others not?

Oh sure we can be given the scientific data that once the storm crossed Florida, weakened then went in to the 90 degree temperature of the Gulf of Mexico it was fueled for a deadly collision course with United States. Or this was nature just taking its course as a result of global warming? Perhaps we will never know.

But maybe, maybe this catastrophe is a wake up call reminding us that as far advance as we are with our technologies, architectural ordinance's and the sophisticated means of predicting the weather, and preparing for disasters, we are still finite human beings with limitations and inadequacies.

Does this mean that we are failures? Far from it, I think it does indicate, however the need to acknowledge a more dependency on God rather that looking to ourselves for the answers of life. In fact, a friend of mind who is a meteorologist always reminds me, "even though we try and predict the weather, there is someone Greater in charge."
I find it interesting that often times, whenever there is a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane Katrina, it is referred to as an "Act of God." But when something beautiful occurs as the blooming of the flowers or the gentle spring rain, we attribute it to "Mother Nature."

My question is why is bad equated with God and the good referenced to Mother Nature? Why can't we be bold enough to switch the mentality around and see the beautiful sunset as an act of God and the Hurricane, Mother Nature? After all, if Jesus is considered the Prince of Peace, then why equate Him with disasters that result in anything but peace?
Is it perhaps that we need some one to blame.
Regardless of this, I believe that, perhaps there is no time better than the present where we need to stop and diligently pray. That is offer to God our supplications to give the people on the Gulf Coast, encouragement, hope, strength, relief and restoration as well as peace since Jesus Christ is always present with us.

To be sure, He is our helper, our comforter. He still has the great power as He did when He physically walked the earth, to work miracles.
No situation is ever be hard for Him. We only have to bring our needs to Him and trust He will answer our prayers.
Yet the fundamental question still remains, why do bad things happen to good people? A honest question with no easy or adequate answers. But the other day while pondering this query I came across a prayer of the Church which we read when some one is ill and it gave me some insight.
It reads:

"Master Lord of hosts, our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?who dwells on high and surveys the lowly; Who makes the sun rise on the evil and the righteous, and makes the rain fall on the just and unjust?."

In other words, none of us are immune from the pains, the joys, the sufferings, and the happiness in this life. They will occur and each of us will experience them in some degree. And in this world, there are good people who will suffer and bad and evil people who will receive good and vice-a-versa. But why?

First, we must come to the realization that we live in a fallen world, sinful and distant from God, the devil has a foot in the door creating havoc, spreading pain and injury, and ultimately doing everything in his power to take away our peace and destroy our faith. And I am confident this tragedy has many questioning their faith.

Yet, as Orthodox Christians and a faith believing community we know and believe that there is more than suffering. There is more than sorrow and death. There is God's grace. There is God's love. There is God's power. There is God's eternal life. There is God's victory over death in Jesus Christ.
This we can see as we recall the Old Testament figure Job. He was a righteous and godly man. The devil, in the form of the snake challenged God and said, "While Job experiences the good he will be faithful to you, but take away what he has and he will curse you."

The Lord replied, "He will not, and to show you his faithfulness, you do whatever you want to him, but do not kill him." Well, we know the rest of the story, Job lost everything, his family, house livelihood and his health. He was in a deplorable state.

Yet, look what he does. He curses the day that he was born, he condemns the night he was conceived, and he is a breath away from damning the Lord, but he does not. He rather is still holding on to what little hope and belief in God while at the same time, venting his deserving grief.
To be sure, it is not wrong for us to weep, cry, question or be angry with the Almighty because of the pain we are experiencing. Yet at the same time, we have to cling on to whatever faith we have left and not give up. Our Lord tells us all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed, just a tiny minuscule of belief. By doing so, this mercy of God, will get us through our pain and agony.
For Job. the shift in his sorrow and suffering turned around when he encounters the voice of God in the whirlwind and confesses; "Now I See
You. Job 42:5. In other words, He saw and experienced God in the
midst of his anguish. He realized that he was not alone.

Hopefully his experience can serve as comforted and a reality that Jesus Christ is always present in our own times of trouble. He is there, He is real, He has not nor will He forsake us. This is why during times of calamity the Church sings the hymn: Lord of the powers, we beseech You to be ever with us. Only from You do we seek help in suffering and distress, we look to You O Lord of hosts have mercy on us.
Thus, in return the Lord is calling each of us. He is saying: "Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28.

"Come, and let him who is thirsty take water and live freely."
Revelation 22:17.

Come, He said to thieves, to murders, to adulterers, to all the lost sons and daughters of the world. They came to Christ and they found all they were looking for and more."

Come, He says to all of us, you do not have to be perfect to come.
Come as you are-with all your sins and sorrows, weakness and failures, problems and anxieties. Come to the only One who can forgive you, heal you, grant you peace, comfort, strength and eternal life.
As our nation pulls together in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, may we once again look to Almighty God for strength and comfort praying for the victims and their families and the rescue efforts. Amen.

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