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“God is with us, God is here, God will always be here,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her sermon at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-Au-Prince on January 12 noting the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.
On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people, seriously injuring more than 250,000, and leaving 1.3 million homeless. An extensive number of private and public buildings were destroyed including Holy Trinity Cathedral and the affiliated Episcopal institutions in the Cathedral Complex.
The following is the Presiding Bishop’s sermon in English and in French, as it was preached.
Haiti earthquake Anniversary
12 January 2013
Cathédrale Ste Trinité, Port-au-Prince
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
We’ve heard the words of Revelation: “I saw the holy city, adorned as a bride… and I heard a voice saying, ‘the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them, wipe away every tear, he will put an end to death, and mourning, and crying, and pain.’”
The lament continues here – where is that city? Will Port-au-Prince and the other devastated parts of Haiti ever find that kind of peace and grace? Three years after the earthquake, this nation still waits and yearns. Hundreds of thousands still live in tents, violence and kidnapping seem to increase rather than decrease, corruption continues and donors decline to fulfill their promises because of it.
Yet, and yet… the people of this land still gather as we do today to hope and pray and remember the promise. God is here in the tents – the tents of human flesh as well as the canvas and plastic ones. God’s faithful hands (in human flesh) wipe away tears, one child at a time. The sick are cared for, and the dead are buried and mourned, one by one. The promise is remembered and it is being fulfilled.
The good shepherd is at work, tending and gathering the flock. That shepherding can be seen, if you look carefully. It is not the action of a single human figure – it is the act of the whole body, the work of many who are laying down their lives for the sheep. Many share that work, for no one can do it all, and some have literally and finally given what is left of their lives so that others might live.
That shepherding gives life to others in many ways, like marking the sheep with the sign of the cross in baptism, and challenging new members of the flock to care for others. Good shepherds help sheep find food, and they deliver the weak from the fear of darkness or being alone. Good shepherds gather the girls into groups and pass out whistles for safety. Shepherds find shelter for the multitudes, build schools and teach children, and the good shepherds help the flock discover or remember joy. When the sheep are singing and dancing, you can see the holy city emerging from the heavens!
The Good Shepherd intends to gather the whole flock, even those who don’t belong to this fold. The shepherd continues to invite and gather all those varied sheep into widening streams, flowing toward that holy city.
That city of our dreams – and God’s dream – wants the presence of all the sheep, and the goats, and the prisoners, and the lame, and the mourners, the sad and the glad and the bad, all of whom will be healed as they enter in.
We’ve had a foretaste of that heavenly city – in the stable where Jesus was born. That place for animals was certainly dark, and dirty, and smelly. God took on human flesh in a place much like one of the tents that stayed so long on the Champs de Mars. The magi brought their gifts to a place like that, for they saw the promise and shared the dream. God is here in our midst, living in the mud, going hungry, sharing the living and dying with us, and the thirst and the cholera. Jesus is here in the flesh, as hope in our midst. The good shepherd lives among the flock, sharing their water sources and pastures.
If we are going to find that holy city, Jesus has already shown us where to look. Go and be a shepherd, and lead others toward that healed city. Dwell among the sheep and discover the good shepherd already present and at work – and the city beginning to emerge from the clouds of dust and dirt. God is with us, God is here, God will always be here. The only question is whether we’re willing to look and discover, and become a shepherd for our fellow sheep. Sing, make music, teach children and young people, heal the sick, build the new city! Be a good shepherd.