THE PULPIT ON DISASTERS
Dr. J. P. Brushingham, pastor of the South Park Methodist Episcopal Church, Chicago, told his congregation, on the Sunday after the floods and tornado, that the calamities made good food for reflection for pessimists who believed their lot the worst possible.
"I desire to call attention to five lessons from the recent sad disasters which have shocked the nation and called forth the sympathetic interest of the world," he said.
"First, a lesson in contentment and gratitude. Brother Growler and Brother Discontent should remind themselves that persons as good and as bad as they have not only had a window pane shattered but the house swept away by wind, flood or fire. Why complain? You will be richer, healthier and happier if you are cheerfully grateful.
"Second, a lesson of mysterious providence. I congratulate the man to whom such providences are an open book. I stand stunned in the presence of such calamity and can only cry ‘Mystery! Mystery!’
"Are the cities of Omaha, Dayton, Peru and Columbus wicked above the other cities of our native land? Are we fatalists and do we believe that whatever is to happen happens?
"Do we believe in the Malthusian theory, that Providence is under obligation to flood, famine, pestilence and war in order that the population may not become excessive?
"Again I answer, ‘Mystery!’ Must I therefore reject the providence of God? Not unless I reject everything else which I do not understand—the blossoming of a flower and why health is not contagious, rather than disease. Science must not be rejected because of mystery, neither should religion, for science without mystery is unknown; religion without mystery would be absurd.
"Third, a lesson of benevolence and Samaritanism. Money and relief have poured in from all sources. Chicago has not been unmindful of the charity that sprang to her relief in the dark days of 1871. Instead of the hard-clasped hand of thrift we have seen the open palm of unselfish generosity. It is said the government should anticipate and provide against such destruction of life and property. Be that as it may, now is the time to bury the dead and succor the living.
"Fourth, a lesson in heroism. Not only Mr. Patterson, a great man in the world of commerce, but humble fishermen, risked their lives to save others. We may thank God for that fine altruism which makes our poor humanity akin to God.
"Fifth, a lesson in personal religious privilege and obligation. A solemn warning, ‘Be ye also ready.’ Let each hour be as if it were the last."
Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones of All Souls’ Church, Chicago, a preacher of international fame, said, in a sermon March 30:
"The story of the dire calamities that have swept over our nation in these latter days, of the cyclone in Omaha and of the deluge in Ohio and Indiana, proves that the military resources in the hands of an intelligent administration can be and have been turned to benign influences. But the situation would have been immeasurably sadder if the starving and the drowned had to await the military trained for the courage and the devotion that brought succor."
Rev. Frederick E. Hopkins said, in a sermon at Park Manor Congregational Church, Chicago:
"There were fires and floods and cyclones before Jesus came on earth to show us what God is like. But we ransack the old records in vain to find the story of such sympathy as is being shown today. Why? Because those were unchristian ages. There have been awful disasters since our Lord came—some of them worse than anything that has happened during the past week. But only in a small proportion have the people given as they are giving now. This shows how much better the world is than it ever was before."
Rev. Frank C. Bruner of Ogden Park M. E. Church, Chicago, in his sermon March 30, said:
"In the startling cyclonic events of the last few days the interrogations fly thick and fast: What had God to do in manufacturing a cyclone? This is a natural question in the light of the appalling loss of life.
"This tragedy of the cyclone, which seems to have a career in all the ages of human history, does not belong to the world of Godhood.
"The biggest truth extant is that all evil is devil-born. When you take the great dramatic epic of Job and grow familiar with each act in the drama it is clear as a morning without clouds that all evil can be traced to the devil, of whom a great man said. ‘Going about seeking whom he may devour.’
"The tragedy of a cyclone is not God’s tragedy."
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© 2001, Lynn Waterman