March 2011: NCYC

March 2011: NCYC

Every two years, hundreds of youth between 16 and 25 and their leaders gather to experience Christian community at the National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC). It’s huge.

But when Victoria hosted NCYC in January 2009 it was followed by Black Saturday. And when Queensland hosted NCYC this year it was followed by floods and a tropical cyclone.

A strange coincidence? Or does God hold a grudge against our Christian youth?

A crazy idea! Of course. But there are still those among us who attribute disasters to a selectively wrathful omnipotent being. And those less certain who ask “Why” or “Where is God in this?”

Following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Uniting Church President Alistair Macrae said scripture counselled extreme caution lest God be represented as vindictive, arbitrary and punitive.

“So often attempts to draw explicit links between cause and effect compound the suffering of victims of disaster and paint a picture of God we are more likely to hate than love.”

The presence of the power of God is seen more clearly in the life of Christ than in the might of storms and earthquakes.

Anglican Primate Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, ,speaking after Cyclone Yasi, said, “When you look closely at Jesus’ life you see that his strength and power and might are expressed chiefly in the way he shows mercy and compassion and gives himself in risky, sacrificial service. That’s what the presence and power of God look like.

“Just think of the selflessness of the rescue workers who risked their own lives to save others … Think of the outpouring of care and generosity and assistance we’ve seen.”

An example of this is our partner church the GKI Synod of West Java donating $10,000 to the national Uniting Church Flood Appeal, despite having had to respond to floods, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions across Indonesia this summer.

Archbishop Aspinall said, while there was no clear satisfying answer, we do know that the echoes of God’s love shown to us in Jesus Christ are all around us. “And those echoes are a sign of God’s faithfulness to us, a sign of hope for what the world might be, and an inspiration to us to do our bit, to give ourselves generously, sacrificially in love and care for others that that vision of one global family in peace with each other and with God might become a reality.”

We need to prepare for disasters — cyclones, climate change, oil shortages — and take responsibility for what we can control in order to avert human suffering. When unexpected natural disasters strike we need to help each other, too, as best as we can.

NCYC was no disaster and caused no disaster. But it could still send “shockwaves” through the church.

While we are thinking of our responsibility for the future, imagine congregations being enthused, rejuvenated and inspired to live and adopt faithful lives of discipleship.

Support your NCYC delegates as they submerge themselves into your communities.

Stephen Webb

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