The beginning of my Christian Action talk for this weekend's Emmaus Walk:
At 3pm, on the afternoon of April 5, an explosion, one and a half miles inside a mountain, rocked the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. Soon after the event, we knew that 25 men had died; at the end of the week, the hope that four miners might have survived was lost. A total of 29 men lost their lives. A loss like that echoes. Twenty women became widows that day. Two fiancées were left with broken dreams. Fifty seven sons and daughters lost their fathers, while 65 children lost their grandfathers.
We sit in this room, and we look at the pictures, and our hearts ache. Why is that? Some of us may know someone from the area; one or two of us may personally feel one of those echoes of grief, but for the most part, our daily lives will not be touched by the tragedy, and yet…our hearts ache.
And if you are like me, we wonder, “What can I do to help?”
Kiekegaard wrote, “To the Christian, love is the works of love. Christ’s love was not an inner feeing, a full heart and what-not; it was the work of love which was his life.”
Over the past couple of weeks I have been blessed to be a witness to the work of love that Kiekegaard wrote about. An outpouring of response to the grief. I’ve read about it – I’ve read stories about the care West Virginians offered the National media at Marsh Fork Elementary school – nurturing care that was shocking to those who received it. I’ve heard stories of how many people were praying, about pastors who traveled to the area to offer comfort during grief. One United Methodist pastor said, “We hope our presence will say to them, there is always hope. That’s what Easter is. Christ is risen and even in the midst of this, Christ is alive and with us.”
On a more personal note, I’ve watched as donations have come in to the Council of Churches fund for the families. Donations have come from all across the country. Checks with the words “God Bless the Miners” written on them. We received one envelope containing a large amount of cash, and on it was written, “From Shawn Peters (name changed) and all the coal miners at Pritchard Mining and Tyler Morgan Mining Companies.” Yes, these people were sending money, but more than that, they were sending grace and love to the families of these miners – families missing their husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, friends.
Christian love is more than a feeling. It is more than the connection we have with each other as the children of God. God motivates us, each and every day, to move from feeling love, to the work of love. Love is a verb. Love is action.