Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvelous things” (Micah 7:14-15).
I spent the last few days concentrating on ministry in response to disaster or pandemic. The enormity of need that explodes into existence when calamity strikes staggers me. The impact of Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy illustrates. Those storms damaged or destroyed millions of dollars of property. People who had believed themselves secure in their place of residence suddenly found themselves homeless. A cousin of my mother’s lost their house in Homestead, Florida, and everything in it during Hurricane Andrew. In the aftermath of some crises, public order breaks down; desperate people loot abandoned stores and homes. These disasters require great cooperation between government agencies, the military and police, volunteer groups, and medical personnel. They also call for people of God who remind survivors of the resilience they may doubt they have and help them recall blessings (life, family, faith) that remain. Micah preaches to a nation ravaged by attacks from enemies; his people had forgotten the God that rescued their ancestors from slavery. He reminds his nation of their spiritual heritage; he foretells a return of blessing under a messianic leader. Micah concludes his prophecy with a prayer, reminding God of his work on behalf of these people in the past and calling him to act once more to deliver them. He prays that God will guide his lost sheep who have forgotten, blinded by their losses, that they still live in a fertile land.
Disasters, whether community catastrophes or family implosions, often numb us spiritually. In shock, we forget ethical, moral, and spiritual concepts that have protected us in the past. We founder, and like people whose home has been obliterated by a storm, make rash decisions that harm us in the long run. Like Micah’s contemporaries, we need to pause and remember a God who provides, and who calls us to holy living that will help us to survive times of spiritual injury and material loss. Like Micah, we should remember how God has acted in the past, and call for his help in prayer. The remainder of the prayer reminds God’s people of his compassion and his capacity for forgiveness. God is faithful, but like a faithful shepherd who guides his flock from a rocky desert landscape to a fertile pasture, he prods his people toward holiness as he restores what they have lost.
“Our God, our Shepherd and Redeemer, guide us from spiritual poverty to blessing. Open our eyes and our ears to your Word; lead our feet in paths of obedience that will restore our faith. Help us to realize the blessings we have even when we have lost much; show us the way to abundant life. May we remember the promise we made you when we were baptized, buried in water and arising into a new life where we realized the new life made possible by death and resurrection of your Son. May we live lives worthy of our confession and worthy of you, our Refuge in the storm. In Jesus’ name, Amen.