By Rabbi Rick Sherwin
My colleague and friend, Rev. Nathan Swenson-Reinhold, wrote the following in response to my theological perspective in the winds of Hurricane Harvey: “If I might be so bold, you are starting to sound scarily like a Lutheran theologian. This is the point of the cross we insist: not substitutionary atonement, but the at-one-ment of a God who has come and joined us in our struggle, in our own darkness, in our own sin, and whose strength is with us to overcome.”
Nathan, I am honored!
WHAT I WROTE – Where is God in Hurricane Harvey? God is not in the high winds or in the downpour that floods people’s lives but in the strength of those who suffer to get through this experience with their families and with their own sanity intact. God is in people who respond to need: those who steer boats through the streets to carry the stranded to safety, those who open their churches and businesses to offer refuge for those who are now homeless, the staff that reopens the summer camps for daycare so that parents have a place to leave their children during the clean-up process, the first responders who offer ongoing assistance, the medical teams, the emergency teams, the Israeli disaster relief team that came immediately and without invitation, and the organized gathering of funds and supplies in all 50 states.
Serving God is not a matter of reciting prayers of praise that petition God for reward. Serving God is in the extension of heart and hands to help and to heal, to uplift and to restore hope that brightness will come, with the help of God and in the goodness of people.
MY RESPONSE TO NATHAN – Some people see religion as a divisive force in the world today. Those people should instead see what you and I share: we see religion as humanity’s healthiest unifying force so long as our heart is open, our arms are extended, and our feet walk together.
Rabbi Rick Sherwin, a graduate of UCLA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Rabbi Rick’s passion is filling spiritual services and interfaith educational programs with creativity, relevance, dialogue, and humor.