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Church Times
1st Sun9:3011:00
2nd Sun9:30 
3rd Sun9:30 
4th Sun9:30 
5th Sun9:30 


Minister's Reflection – Unthinkable tragedy

Last week I wrote of Joy – deep joy that undergirds reality with a fundamental affirmation that we are loved and delighted in by God.

I write this evening with the heavy news of the deaths of five children in a Devonport primary school celebration spreading across our communities with dismay and horror, grief and heartache in its wake.

Perhaps some of us have personal links to this community, to the families directly affected. We feel the tenderness of this hurt with you.

Perhaps some of us have lost a child – too soon, unthinkably too soon – and this news reawakens memories of that loss and aggravates a pain that is never too quiet.

Perhaps some of us already carry such heavy burdens of other kinds, and this news feels overwhelming – we know it’s dread but do not have any more stretch in our souls to bear this, and while others weep we are numb and stone cold. That is deep grief, not heartlessness.

Perhaps some of us find a pure outrage rising up and anger bubbling over – no words, only raw emotion. That is another language of care and grief too.

Perhaps some of us are filled with fear. Might such a thing happen to me or to those I treasure and love? We hold one another close as we feel the fragility of life.

Perhaps we are beset by questions – small practical details that pester our minds, and vast existential questions that plead for an explanation for tragedy – and we find ourselves preoccupied in our own thoughts, unable to be present to those around us whom we love.

There are so many normal human reactions to disaster. Whatever you are feeling at this time, it is an emotion that God not only knows, but feels too.

People who observe suffering from a distance can often question the existence of God. If God is real, why is this happening? A very fair question.

But those who endure suffering, who live within pain and tragedy, often (though not always) experience the opposite. The strange but strong assurance that God is directly bearing not only all of the suffering that they themselves are under, but also all the other sufferings of the world is not simply a nice comforting thought, but deep conviction that defines who God is. God is the suffering-with-us God. The suffering God.

While humans suffer various pains and labours and griefs, God –who inhabits all of the cosmos, to the smallest atom, neutrino or quark – bears all of the sufferings of the world, every kind at every moment in everything.

There is no time that the sudden tragic death of children is easy. But Christmas is such a painful time to lose five precious children, to know several others are in injured and hundreds more children in the school community and beyond are traumatised by this disaster. This is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus – that we reach to grasp what it means for God to become a child – a baby – to become as vulnerable to disaster and suffering as all the children of the world.

Whatever we are feeling, whatever the impact of these deaths for each of us, and all of us as a community, God is with us, God is suffering with us, God is feeling with us. All that we feel and all that the families and community Hillcrest and Devonport feel. God is present, bearing all of it.

God assures us, that though suffering and unthinkable tragedy comes amongst us, Love is what matters most, what matters more than hardship. In fact love dignifies suffering. Imagine if those five children died and no one mourned, because no one loved them?

What kind of world would that be?

And what of the joy? Now is not the time for triteness or glib jolliness. The pain is excruciating.

But Joy – our fundamental affirmation that we are the joy of God – has a place in this sadness. We do not let anyone to dare (though sometimes people do dare) to suggest that these deaths were ‘part of God’s plan for the best’ or worse still, some kind of judgement on someone: our secure knowledge that we are God’s joy, not God’s punching bag shuts down such a suggestion. We are overtaken bysuffering which may bring sorrow - as in the death of a child, or suffering which may bring joy – as in the birth of a child. Suffering itself is a consequence – not an intention. God’s great intention for us, for all of us, that we love with whole hearts and whole selves cannot be thwarted, even by the greatest suffering, or the most tragic death. Love endures. Love does not fail. Even death that takes those we love away too soon, is powerless to stop us loving them.

In this terrible moment, is it not true that cherish one another more, that we hold those we love even closer, that we treasure the rich gift of love - for those we have lost and those we have still - more dearly. Though with weeping aching hearts, we are confident that God bears our suffering more deeply than we can imagine, that no suffering separates us from God’s utter love. And so we stand with those who grieve and ache with loss, we hold teachers and students, families and friends, paramedics, doctors and nurses, police and support workers in our prayers, we speak more gently to all we meet in the busyness of life as it must go on, mindful that we do not know what pains another may carry from this or another tragedy, and we bear it all together in faith, hope and love.


What's on in Clarence

Sun   2 Jan    9:30 am Bellerive Uniting Church
Sun   2 Jan  11:00 amLindisfarne Uniting Church
Sun   9 Jan    9:30 am Bellerive Uniting Church
Sun 16 Jan    9:30 am Bellerive Uniting Church
Sun 23 Jan    9:30 am Bellerive Uniting Church
Sun 30 Jan    9:30 pm Bellerive Uniting Church
Connections Craft Group is running as usual.
The Unicorn Opportunity Shop is open four days a week from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Sorell Friendship Group meets every 2nd Sat 2:00 pm



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All Age Service at Bellerive Uniting Church cnr Cambridge Rd and York St, Bellerive, Tasmania7018

Traditional Service at Lindisfarne Uniting Church cnr East Derwent Hwy and Derwent Ave, Lindisfarne, Tasmania 7015


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