Thursday, 12 April 2018 06:42

Where was the presence of God last week?

Written by  Ray Friesen
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Since Friday night when I first heard the news and the horrible extent of the tragedy, I have been thinking about the Bronco bus accident, the young men involved, the driver of the truck, the parents, billet parents, community, and all impacted. 

I’ve been thinking about it as a person who, in an on going way, tries to make sense of life, tragedy, blessings, and God.  What if my grandson had been involved?  I have been thinking about it as a pastor who tries to help others with those same questions. 
What if I had been the team chaplain who spoke Sunday night?  (Very well, I might add.) 
I have been thinking about it as a father whose daughter, for four years as a starter with the Arden soccer team, traveled Sask highways in a high school van.  It could have been her and her friends.  But it wasn’t.  I am thankful for that.  But who do I thank?
God?  Why would I?  Did God protect my daughter and her friends but turn the divine back on the Broncos?  Why would God do that?  Because the Ardens were girls?  Because they drank less beer than the Broncos? 
Used the F-word less often?  Being younger and not male hockey stars done less carousing?  If that were the case, I, for one, would rather be an atheist. 
To think God had any hand in keeping the Ardens safe and killing the Broncos would be reason to give up on God and faith altogether.
And still, I go back to the Ancient Writings to help me deal with this tragedy.  The only answer to Rev. Brandow’s question, “Why?” is “I have no &^%^& idea!”  If I did, I might be able to apply for the God-job.  It is the way of the universe.  All it would have needed was a 30 second difference in leaving time of the bus or the truck, and the Broncos might now be in the SJHL finals.  But, daily, but for those 30 seconds, people die. 
And all we know is it is the way of the Universe.
What about Rev. Brandow’s “Where?”  “Where was God on Friday night around 5:00 or 5:30 or so?” 
It is here that I am drawn to the Ancient Writings, Ancient Poetry and Ancient Story.  One of the Ancient Poets wrote, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” 
However, as one pastor wrote in a sermon, dealing with his own tragedies, “I know that joy comes in the morning, but when in God’s name will it be morning?!” 
And, I think right now, for parents, wives, families, friends, you are not sure you want morning and joy to come.  It would feel like a betrayal of the loved one you lost.
Where you are is best expressed, probably, by another Ancient Poet who, after berating Yahweh God for 17 verses for mismanaging history and the Universe, concludes: “The only friend I have left is Darkness.”  Is it?  Really?  Is that all that is left?  It may certainly feel that way, as Rev. Brandow confessed when he said he spent15 hours in what felt like total darkness. 
And it would be the case, not just 15 hours but the rest of our lives if not for one more thing, the Answer to “Where?”
Jesus suffering and dying on the cross has been used and misused (sometimes in truly horrible ways) in Christian faith and understanding of God and the world for 20 centuries. 
It's one grand message is the Answer to “Where?” for on the cross it was not someone separate from God suffering and dying but it was God on the cross saying as loudly as possible:  “I love you and I am there, wherever the greatest tragedy, I and my Presence, Love and Caring are mixed in with all the rest.” 
Where was God on Friday night?  Same place God was that other Friday, long ago. 
Suffering, dying, weeping. 
In the bus, and suffering and dead on the ground.  In the hospital and in the morgue, dead with the boys, weeping with the parents. 
In Humboldt and in every town, city, and farm in Saskatchewan, weeping, confused, and asking, like all the rest of us, “Why?” 
That’s where God was and where God will continue to be.
God is there in the hug from a neighbour, feel it as the neighbour’s hug and God’s hug. 
God is there, holding your hand when it sure feels like your friend’s hand.  God was there in a fireman’s uniform, driving an ambulance, and wearing an RCMP badge. 
God was and is embodied in each one of these people.
I went through my own dark time recently—though not to be compared to what 15 families are facing—and I came out the other end convinced there is very little I know about God except Presence, Love and Caring.  Of that I am more convinced than ever. 
May all of us, but especially the families, close friends, and community become ever more convinced as they experience God through us and through that presence of God not limited by physical bodies.
Ray Friesen is the Co-pastor, Emmaus Mennonite Church, Wymark, SK.

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