“Behold, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it?”
It is one of my favorite scenes in The Wizard of Oz, when the same tornado that transports Dorothy from Kansas to Oz, drops a house on the Wicked Witch of the West thus putting an end to her cruel reign. Declaring it a miracle, the liberated Munchkins joyfully pour into the streets of the city, celebrating and singing, “Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch! Wake up, you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed…ring the bells, ring them high, ring them low, ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!” Of course, there will be still her wretched sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, with whom the characters must contend, but, if you know how the story ends, you need not fear her wrath, for she too will be ultimately be defeated.
For the last five years, the citizens our city have also lived and labored under the cruel reign of a wicked witch. Which old witch? Katrina. But on this Sunday, the five year anniversary of the unprecedented disaster of her arrival on our doorsteps, let us declare that she is dead. To be sure, the effects of her wrath will be felt for years to come, and, without a doubt, there is much work yet to be accomplished in the rebuilding of homes and lives in our beloved city. But let us not forget that five years ago many experts were asking, “Is New Orleans worth saving?” Five years ago, assessing the hopelessness of the devastation, no one could even begin to imagine a recovery, let alone the astonishingly miraculous renaissance of which we are now the grateful witnesses. Everywhere we turn we are surprised and blessed to behold the miracle of new life rising up right out of the rubble. Truly, the New New Orleans is being reconceived and reborn stronger, safer, lovelier, wiser, and better than ever before.
We are not naïve. We know that Katrina has sisters. And we realize that there are enormous challenges yet to be faced. But on this Sunday, let us remember and rejoice. Let us “step from the past and leave behind…” Let us ring the bells, sing and celebrate. Above all, let us give thanks to God for an unconquerable love that is stronger than death, for a life that has the power to rise up and go ON!
“Behold, I am doing a new thing!
Do you not perceive it?”