The effects of the Christchurch earthquake will be felt for many years to come. Our hearts go out to everyone in Christchurch who have lost loved ones, seen homes and property destroyed. We stand with you Christchurch in your hour of need. Your pain and loss is our pain and loss. Your anxiety has become our anxiety. We hurt with the hurt of our people. We mourn and are overcome with grief.
Since our people are crushed, we are crushed; we mourn, and horror grips us. Christchurch we are weeping with you. With every loss of life we have all lost life. Christchurch has been shaken and New Zealand has been shaken.
We held two minutes of silence in the nation as our Prime minister looked at his shoes and wondered what the future held for New Zealand. Yet, in spite of further aftershocks in Christchurch and a smaller earthquake in Wellington, there has still been no national cry to God.
The Psalmist cries out:
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
There is a tangible place in relationship with God that can be a refuge, where we can be safe. There is a place in the heart of God for every person who looks to Jesus’ death and resurrection for their hope.
The Scriptures are clear that the litmus test to see whether we have made God our refuge can sometimes be during an earthquake. The psalm states “we will not fear when earthquakes come.” Why? Because God has become our safety. God himself – not church, not religion, not human philosophy, not my spouse but God himself has become my inner reality. When everything around is shaking, when buildings are falling, when lives are being lost, when the economy is going down, that will be the test of the quality of our relationship with God.
There is huge economic uncertainty in New Zealand at present. We have elected an economist as Prime Minister because many New Zealanders believe in a good economy above all else. We had hoped our Prime Minister could lead us through these times. Yet deep down we know something is up. Deep down we know we are building on sinking sand. From comedians to politicians, from retail shoppers to McDonald’s workers, we know something is very wrong in our society.
Morally, New Zealanders are under huge strain and shaking. Abortion continues at epidemic rates, marriages seem to fail as a matter of fact, children remain abused and taken into CYFS care. Daytime and evening soap operas continue to comatose the masses. Alcohol and a cocktail of SSRIs are the perfect refuge from the onslaught of suicidal tendencies, night terrors and anxieties swirling through our social networks.
This could be the most sobering and yet the glorious hour in New Zealand history. The Christchurch earthquake has rocked and shaken the national psyche in ways nothing else could. Earthquakes do that. They are sudden, unexpected and devastating.
Christchurch has been shaken. Our comfort has been shaken. Our families and livelihoods have been shaken. We have been shaken, but are we stirred? Are we stirred enough to believe the words of the Psalmist and return to the open heart of God. Notice I did not say are we stirred enough to go to church or to a Christian conference. Are we stirred enough to actually return our lives to God our Father. Are we stirred enough in the midst of the shaking to gaze upon the beauty of his son Jesus, crucified for us?
Like the lost son many years ago, have we come to our senses enough to make the journey home? There is a glorious welcome waiting. God promises us a place of refuge. He promises a place of genuine intimacy and love from a Father to a child. The table is laid, the candles are lit, the food is ready, and the Father is waiting
• Steve Dunne is pastor at Richmond Baptist Church, Nelson.