Sermons 2005
Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Christmas 2A 2005 Matthew 2

We only celebrate the Sunday known as the Second Sunday after Christmas about once in 9 years so I am going to combine the two alternate readings from Matthew as well as the section edited out of your bulletin insert. I am going to do this because the 6th of January is the Day of the Epiphany or the Manifestation of the Christ Child to the Gentiles – the three wise men so called -- as well as the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents and the return to Palestine and Nazareth. So I thought it appropriate to read the Scriptures pertinent to these things even if we only explore one or so. I especially wanted to restore the edited out section of your insert because it concerns the Holy Innocents and that episode can begin to serve as a lens to help us to begin to come to grips with the tsunami devastation in South Asia.

The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’ 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’

9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

The Gospel of the Lord!

As I was sitting in my study Wednesday and Thursday writing this sermon, the breaking news bulletins kept rolling across my computer screen announcing the revised estimates of the death toll of the tsunami that swept across the shores of much of South Asia a week ago. The earliest estimates I saw were 50,000, dead. By Friday, the latest was over 120,000, about half of whom were children. The magnitude of this natural disaster was so great that it was hard to grasp it. We couldn’t get our arms around, couldn’t bring it to manageable proportions.

And like the parents of the Holy Innocents two thousand years ago, we wept for and with the parents on the shores of South Asia as we saw the news pictures of parents holding the dead bodies of their small children. To lose a child the hardest of losses for a parent, something those of us who have not suffered it can only dimly glimpse at understanding.

We can understand mechanically and physically and geologically the causes of the Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Most of us have some knowledge about the ever-shifting tectonic plates of the earth that bear land and sea above the planets molten magma core. Both coasts of the United States, especially the West Coast, lie across major fault lines resulting from the shifting of these plates.

Yet such mechanical and physical and geological understanding – head knowledge -- cannot help us much when we try to understand the human misery and its causes as a result of the tsunami. And some of us, even as we prayed for the survivors and dead victims, may have sharply challenged God himself. “Where were you, God?” when this was happening, we asked, Job like, or like the weeping mothers in Herod’s Judea, as the ever expanding dimensions of the disaster kept unfolding across our computer and television screens and newspaper front pages and headlines. “Where were you, God? Why didn’t you stop it?” Even asking, “Why did you let this happen?” And Perhaps even, “Why did you do this?” And our new found knowledge about tectonic plates and tsunamis isn’t that much help in those kinds of answers.

But those are the wrong kinds of questions, even though they are a natural first reaction. The astronomers tell us of the explosive and powerful chaos in the universe as its ever expanding nature leads to constant recreation of itself. Nothing physical or geological or mechanical in the entire universe is static. Whenever and however the universe was created and came into being its natural processes have the freedom to complete their natural end, including the tectonic plate processes of this small planet earth.

Where is God? God is with those who search and watch and weep in their profound sorrow. And God is with us as we pour relief supplies and monies into the stricken areas.

The only question to ask is this: “In this natural disaster, what would God have us do? What can we, must we, do to help? We are, after all, the only hands God has to see this thing through.

There is a story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world.

'Dear God,' he cried out, 'Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in the world. Why don't you send help?'

God responded, 'I did send help. I sent you.' (1)

When we encounter difficulties such as this enormous disaster, it is best not to consult with theologians or philosophers, but with people who know how and can do things to help.

The point is that our hands become the hands of God, our feet the feet of God, our words the words of God, our love the love of God. It’s been put this way: "This is a time to remember that when Jesus told us to love our neighbor, he had a REALLY big neighborhood in mind."

Almost every denomination is gearing up to provide relief and aid to the suffering. Church-related staffers and doctors and nurses and truck drivers and mechanics and carpenters are on their way to the Pacific Rim as we speak. Just log on to denominational or the National Council of Churches websites to see.

In other words, we're responding to the tsunami with a tidal wave of love and compassion that will sweep across the homelands of hundreds of thousands affected by this disaster.

And lest we forget, faced as we are by the scale of this tsunami, there are similar disasters, on a smaller scale, that occur every day. People all around us are swept out to sea, hit by tsunamis they didn't see coming. They're floundering emotionally, spiritually and financially. Their lives have been shredded to ribbons. Their relationships are in tatters. They're looking for help. They're looking for love, God’s love, love of neighbor, from someone. (2)

They’re looking for us.


1. David J. Wolpe, sent in by Grant F. Tiefenbruck, from Steve's Quips, Quotes and One-Liners newsletter, quoted in LifeSupport A Tsunami Blessing, Fri, 31 Dec 2004 18:43:50 –0000, "lss_publishing" at ,

2. Last six paragraphs adapted from Email, 30 Dec, Timothy Merrill, Senior Editor, Homiletics

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579