Many eyes were on Europe last week because of two very different events.
First, we followed the aftermath of a terrible airplane crash. Any loss of life is tragic, but this was even more so in that the passengers were en route to a ceremony memorializing 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals who were massacred by Soviet secret police seventy years earlier.
The commemoration was held as planned, while the Polish people and the rest of the world mourned the loss of the Polish president, his wife, and the remaining passengers, most of whom were military and political leaders in the Polish government. We have spent the intervening days watching as the victims of this accident are mourned and buried.
Then, we watched as a volcano in Iceland (I’m not going to try to spell it here!) exploded with all the rage of inner earth, shooting chunks of ice across the landscape and spewing ash into the air. As the winds carried the ash, airplane travel was limited and even halted. Although no one was injured in the eruption, its aftermath has affected hundreds of thousands of lives already, and may continue to do so if the volcano continues to erupt.
Two seemingly disconnected events, and yet, because of the volcanic ash in the air, many world leaders were unable to travel to the Polish president’s funeral, including President Obama. Because air flights had been canceled, because of the danger of the volcanic ash, economies around the world have suffered, unable to ship their exports throughout Europe. And many with breathing problems have begun wearing masks to keep from breathing the ash floating in the air.
What does this have to do with my weekly article? I’m not sure, but I think, as we look at the instability of the earth and the fleeting nature of life on this earth, God might speak to us concerning where we place our faith and trust.
I am reminded of a chorus we used to sing back in the 80s (quoting Psalm 20): “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Especially in this technological society, we tend to trust in modern-day chariots—cars, planes, doctors, banks, appliances, etc.—to keep us or get us where we need, or want, to be. It often isn’t until something fails that we remember where our trust should be placed, in the One who has given us all of these things in the first place.
We sing “Count your many blessings, name them one by one,” and then, while we are counting and making our list, checking it twice, we stop counting and begin to rely on our blessings, to look to our blessings for everything we need, instead of continuing the chorus to its end, “Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
We have all heard the quip, “You can’t take it with you!” Jesus told the parable of a wealthy landowner who had an unusually successful harvest. Basking in his success and wealth, he tore down his old barns and built new ones to hold it all. Unfortunately his life was required of him, and as he passed from this world to the next, all of his wealth and possessions remained behind, for someone else to squander, embrace, or trust in! Jesus finished this story by saying, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
The earth can change at any time, caves collapse into sink holes, earthquakes change the lay of the land, airplanes crash, economies fail, and yet, through it all, God is still the same. “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:29). And, as Balaam spoke when he blessed Israel, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
The key is in understanding what God has promised. Has God promised that we will always have only peace and comfort? Has God promised that we will always have success and profit? Has God promised that we will never face physical or emotional challenges? Not at all.
We have the promise of God’s presence with us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
We have God’s promise of eternal life: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
We have Jesus’ promise that when we give to others, we will receive from God: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). (Note that receiving follows giving!)
Another chorus we sang back in the 80s comes from Isaiah’s words to Israel: “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10).
Natural disasters will occur. Accidents will happen. We will face the problems of life. All of that may well be true; however, in any of these circumstances, when we keep our eyes on Jesus and continually seek God’s will for our lives, we have the assurance that “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
May you have the ability to believe that God is weaving your life, using many colors, from light to dark, many experiences from wonderful to seemingly disastrous, sending the sun and rain on everyone. Keep your eyes up. Look to the Lord and be thankful, knowing that God is at work in your life, even when things change.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church