Jan 23, 2013

Thoughts after a fire

Yesterday we had a tragic event in North Finchley when two people died in a house fire a couple of hundred yards from here...
Posted by: DavidW

Yesterday we had a tragic event in North Finchley when two people died in a house fire a couple of hundred yards from here. As they lived a few doors down from the local synagogue, the Rabbi invited the neighbours and me to gather in the synagogue last night and talk and grieve together. It was a really good idea. Grieving people need to gather and just sit together. I have a lot of respect for the Jewish tradition of ‘sitting shiva’; just being together during a time of grief. Some people spoke about their shock and loss, some shared memories, others sat quietly. The problem came when I was invited to speak. It was one of those occasions where an opportunity was presented to say something helpful and I sort of fluffed it. I mumbled a few things and then shut up again. While trudging home through the snow, as is often the case, I thought about what I would have liked to have said. Here it is:

Why is it that when someone is taken from us it leaves such a massive hole? When someone dies it’s like a part of the world is torn away. When it happens suddenly that tearing is all the more violent. The Bible speaks of God making people in his own image. For me, that is the reason why every human is precious. God makes lots of different people because he has a lot of image to display. Showing what God is like needs lots of people. Those people are precious because they are in his image, irrespective of how young or old or healthy or capable they are. And when a person made in God’s image is taken away, the world loses out. Death is always a tragedy.

But then the other thing I can see at the moment is that everyone here wants an explanation. We want to know why it has happened. We want to find a reason which will let us put our minds at rest about it. Of course, we won’t find one of those, will we? Whatever explanation surfaces with time for what has happened today won’t do. It won’t make things alright. Explanations only help so much. We know that the most important thing we can do to help each other in suffering is to be together, don’t we? You know that, that’s why you’ve come here. God knows that too. Speaking as a Christian pastor, the God I know is one who doesn’t just look at our suffering from afar, like someone who watches the news on TV and feels sorry for the people involved. He’s actually come to us. The great thing which the Christian message can offer at a time like this is the message of God with us, in the middle of all the pain and the sadness and the death. Jesus Christ went through all of that. God knows. He knows it from the inside.