This past month, I took some vacation time and accompanied my wife to New Haven, Connecticut, where she was participating in a Continuing Education program for her work at Juniata College. New Haven is the home of Yale University and consequently the educational base for many of our nation’s past, present, and future leaders in government, science, education, and law. New Haven is the center of considerable wealth and influence and like all of our East Coast cities a place of poverty, homelessness, and lost potential. While Chris was in class, I was able to walk around the city and enjoy the parks, restaurants, museums, and historical sites. I was also able to see up close many of the city’s homeless as they gathered in and near the New Haven Green, “a 16-acre privately owned park and recreation area located in the downtown district of the city”. The morning of August 15 a truly surrealistic scene began to unfold. It appeared as if every police car, fire rescue vehicle, ambulance, and news media truck in the city and surrounding areas had descended upon the Green. There was an army of police, EMS personnel, and city, state, and federal emergency services personnel. It was the sort of scene that you might expect in the aftermath of terrorist attack.
People were walking around dazed and confused while others were in various states of medical stress. Some were being loaded into ambulances while others were being given aid on the sidewalks and paths in the Green. The police were dealing with people in various states of agitation. This commotion was the result of a large number of people overdosing on a synthetic drug commonly referred to as K2, a synthetic cannabinoid. By around 6 pm, more than 70 people had been transported to local hospitals. Some of the individuals had to be taken back to the hospital after being released as many as three times. The final count of individuals that overdosed was more than one hundred. Thankfully, no one died because of this. A major portion of the victims were poor or homeless.
The day before this incident the paths and sidewalks were lined with students, tourist, laborers on lunch breaks, the homeless, and the poor. The day after, the walks and paths were nearly abandoned. What a difference a day makes. The pain of the world is great and what happened in New Haven was a small manifestation of that pain. These victims were so overwhelmed by their pain or the perceived meaninglessness of their lives that they were willing to risk the consequences of the use of this drug for a few short hours of escape.
The prophets often speak to us about the spiritual aspects of troubled times and the promises of God for redemption and healing. We are often called to wait upon the Lord for these results as we seek to live faithful lives. When reflecting upon what I saw in New Haven, I was drawn to a short passage in Zephaniah 3:8-13.
In this call to wait upon the Lord, we have the assurance of God’s deliverance. This passage starts with the promise that God’s wrath will consume the world with fire. The interesting thing about this promised judgment is that even though the world is consumed with fire, the speech of the peoples will be changed to a pure speech. The apparent message is not one of total world destruction but one of world purification and conversion. It is for this reason that the New Revised Standard Version translators entitled this section, “Punishment and Conversion of the Nations.” Because of God’s activity, all people will be able to “call on the name of the Lord.” (Revised Standard Version) In this coming time of redemption, we hear that we will be able to serve the Lord “with one accord.” (RSV) The phrase translated “with one accord” could be more literally translated as, “with one shoulder.” The Hebrew suggests more of a degree of effort than is seen in our English translations. The Septuagint comes closer with “under one yoke.” For me, verses 11 and 12 carry the good news here: The prideful and arrogant will be removed from among us and the humble and lowly will “trust in the name of the Lord”. (New International Version) We are then told in the last verse that the remnant of Israel “will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.” (NIV) What a wonderful day that will be.
Let us all pray that the day of healing will come soon.