Disaster Maps

Luke 4:14-21

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

One more week in the season of Epiphany and we get another view of who Jesus is. We have seen him as the child that the Magi worshipped, the man who was baptized and the voice of God reveled that he was his son, the beloved and we should listen to him. Last week, we see Jesus revealed as one who can perform miracles or signs as John the gospel writer called it, when Jesus turned the water into wine. Today Jesus has appeared in a synagogue which was very normal for the day. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read and he shared the news that one day the Spirit of the Lord would fall upon someone and that someone would bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, the blind would see, the oppressed would go free and the Lord’s favor would be upon them. Then Jesus says that the scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing. Because Jesus was just the guy who was going to make it happen.

Yet here we are 2019 and I wonder are we getting any closer to seeing this happen? We have people who are poor, who are captives, blind, and oppressed. Some people have had the bad scenes replayed over and over in their lives that they can no longer bear to watch it anymore. They refuse to turn on the news channels or pick up a paper. The amount of wrangling in the government over the shut-down and the he said, she said, is getting overwhelming. We wonder who we can truly believe anymore, all while people’s livelihoods are being used as pawns and the response is go get a loan. Denver Public Schools is about to go on strike, so we have backlash with immigration threats against district employees. Anger is the emotion of the day. Tears have replaced laughter. Where is the guy who said that all of this would go away in the hearing of the scripture?

Then out of the ashes of crazy events we find some little nugget of good that comes about, and we get hope again. This little nugget is in the form of disaster maps. (Homiletics info) We watched it unfold in real time on our television screens. Hurricane Katrina had just slammed into the Gulf Coast. Cameras mounted on helicopters showed the desperate plight of those caught in the floodwaters. Some had fled to their rooftops because there was nowhere else to go.

Words painted on bedsheets signaled their despair: “Send Help.”

In a massive disaster like Katrina, one of the greatest challenges for aid agencies is finding displaced people who need to be rescued. Ordinary phone lines are down, and the few cell towers still operating are overwhelmed with voice calls. It would take days for 911 operators to listen to and log thousands of individual distress calls. Even when voice calls do get through, the survivors placing them are often on the move. For rescue workers, knowing yesterday’s — or even the last hour’s — location is of little use.

But voice calls are not the only communications carried over cell towers. Many social-media users, such as Facebook customers, have their location services turned on. Without them even being aware of it, their mobile phones are constantly sending identifying signals to cell towers, and Facebook’s servers are triangulating their location. Often, those tiny pips of data get through when voice calls do not.

Realizing the value of their location data to rescue workers, Facebook’s Data For Good Division has implemented a service called Disaster Maps. During a disaster, Facebook aggregates the location data of all its customers near ground zero and reports overall trends to government agencies and NGOs coordinating the emergency response.

The National Guard needs to know where to deploy its big-wheeled rescue vehicles. Paramedics need to know where to position their rigs for the quickest response time. The Red Cross needs to plot the busiest crossroads to set up their mobile soup kitchens. Disaster Maps tells officials in disaster-response command centers where the largest migrations of survivors are headed.

Facebook has another feature called Safety Check that allows users to check in with friends and family to let them know they’ve reached a place of safety. Disaster Maps also incorporates aggregated Safety Check data, so rescuers can infer which locations on the map are safe — as reported by Facebook users in real time — and which are not. (Homiletics end)

Maybe the proclamation of Jesus from the Isaiah reading in telling those gathered in church that day that the word was fulfilled in their hearing was giving them a disaster map? Maybe the people who need to be responding are the ones sitting in worship this very day, right here. We are going to celebrate a good year int eh church of 2018, during our annual meeting, but what Jesus is trying to tell us is stop sitting back waiting for the good to come to us go and make the good happen.

Paul goes on a crazy rant about the body and different parts being important. You need a nose to smell and an ear to hear and feet to walk and a mind to think and none can be accomplished by the other. They are all interconnected, and we need our parts to function in harmony lest we get all out of whack. In order for the blind to see, the oppressed freed the poor to receive good news and the captives released we need to be the body of Christ. If you look and listen really close to the news you can see it, but we have to be willing to want to see it. Two items: On NPR, novelist Peter Behrehns told this story of pervasive human suffering and simple, extraordinary kindness. Behrens recounted the story of Bartolo, a 22-year-old from Guatemala, who made his way to West Texas in a quest to get to Houston, work two years in construction and then return home to his wife and children. Two hunters give him $100, a runner took Bartolo into his home for two days and found him rides to Dallas and a family in Dallas found him a ride to Houston. Bartolo offered the $100 to the people who drove him the nine hours from West Texas to Dallas, but they refused the money and let him use their cell phone to call his wife. Behrens writes: “This is a story about someone who broke the law to enter our country illegally, and maybe you have a problem with that. It is also a story about hard traveling, courage and acts of kindness.” One more story on a little lighter note, an autistic kid from Virginia, Eric “Bean” McKay eats PB&J three meals a day on English muffins. A year ago peanut butter was on sale for 78 cents a jar and his mom bought 72 jars. It took him almost a year to eat it all, but he did. He saved all the jars and took a picture with the jars and tweeted to the store that they need to put peanut butter on sale again because he was out. The brand of peanut butter was Lidl and when they heard about it, they said if he could 72,000 retweets representing the 72 jars of peanut butter, they would give him a lifetime supply. Bean got 76,000 retweets so they invited him to their warehouse and gave him a supply of about five years’ worth. But the story doesn’t’ end there, it seems that Bean’s father is a government employee and has been furloughed. So, Bean has decided to give some of his peanut butter back to the Lidl store and has said that anybody who is a government furloughed worker can come in and get three free jars of peanut butter. Bean and his Mom were on hand Wednesday to pass out the jars of peanut butter and the company said that Bean truly is their new spokesman for their peanut butter because he helps spread a little love. Maybe we could find a disaster map that show where the real need is. Maybe we could be the nose and ears and feet to help people even when things seem really, really tough, and we too can spread some of God’s love. Amen.


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