April 21, 2013
Acts 9:36-43 Psalm 23 Revelation 7:9-17 John 10:22-30
We breathe a collective sigh of relief. A killer, murderer, terrorist, 19 year old kid, has been caught. The other one, his older brother, is dead. We have been either glued to the TV and whatever form of media we can find, or we are too horrified, too numb, too – inundated – to watch or listen anymore. The Boston marathon bombing shocks our American sensibility. This doesn’t happen here. And yet it does. Unfortunately, tragedy has happened since the beginning of time, or at least since humankind was expelled from the Garden of Eden.
Cain killed his own brother, Abel. Esau vowed to kill his brother Jacob after Esau either traded or lost his birthright in a plan overseen by his own mother. Humanity is not kind to itself. We are vengeful, manipulative, murderous when to be so suits our desires.
We cannot press our comparison very far, however. The vast majority of humankind (of us) has not thought about, let alone committed, such grievous acts. We cannot imagine what sorts of thoughts, indeed, psyche, would lead to dropping bombs into a crowd, landing them with purpose in a backpack at a person’s feet. We cannot envision hurling bombs out of a car that we just stole, killing anyone in showers of bullets. And so we are shocked, hurting, and left with more questions than answers. What has the world come to?
It may be that the world “has come to” what it has always been, or what it has been in a few twisted minds and souls.
And we do not have answers.
What we have is a God who never leaves us alone. God does not leave us in the middle of tragedy. God is in Boston, with the four who have died, and the 170 who are wounded. God is with the wounded family and community, as people rebuild their lives.
God is with those who are in the flooded streets of Chicago, in the muddy aftermath of almost 6 inches of rain; God is with the thousands of people affected by this torrent.
God is with the people of West, TX who are reeling from a massive fertilizer plant explosion, an explosion that was felt 50 miles away from its source. God is with the 14 people who have died, with their families. God is with the 200 people who were physically wounded, is with the community as it begins to dig through the rubble to a new life.
God is with the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China. God is with those who have died, with the almost 6000 who are injured, is with more than 383,000 people reeling from the damage of this earthquake.
God sure was busy this week. God always has been.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.
We saw lots of shadows of death this week. God was there in the form of fellow runners, bystanders, first responders, law enforcement, and the prayers of millions of people. God was there in the use of technology for a manhunt, the use of those dreaded sometimes lifelines we call cell phones as we reached out to loved ones to let them know where we were, that we were okay [or not], available, hurting, rejoicing. Not a single bit of our suffering is too much for God to bear. In the face of disaster, natural and of humankind, God is the Comforter. We have no reason to fear.
Thou art with me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Side by side with evil, God ultimately and always wins. God won the battle over death in the Easter resurrection of our Lord. The battle is won. Jesus “trampled down death with death.” Alleluia.
God is ready for us, here on earth, and when God receives us into everlasting life with all those who have died into God’s arms and loving embrace.
None of this means that suffering is good or right or easy. It is very, very hard to undergo and to watch. We are changed in its existence and in its aftermath. Part of what we have to learn, however, is that we are a strong people. We are resilient. And we do not have to let fear run our lives. We were given life to have abundant life.
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …
And they will. Goodness is present this week, in those who look out for us: our families, friends, strangers with compassion, God. Mercy is present in the precious gifts along the way; a swallow of water, a patch of dry land, help that comes in unexpected places.
The tragedies are huge.
“Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from? …These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes.”
The lamb is still at the center of the throne. He is our shepherd. He knows us, his flock. He calls to us, watches over us, is with us, washes us clean, wipes our tears.
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”