April 17, 2020
Easter is now behind us. I trust your Resurrection Day was as blessed as mine was. The Lord continues to work among us as we trust Him for all things.
Hopefully this shelter in our homes mandate will be lifted soon, and we can be together again to worship our Lord and Savior in one room. As I write this on Thursday it is day #24 of our sheltering in experience here at our house. We are only making necessary trips out, just as I hope you are doing. Let us continue to pray for our governor as he weighs the wisdom of “opening things up” again for our state and as he influences other states in his designated role as national head of the governors. Let us pray for those with financial needs, for those on the front lines, for those who have lost loved ones, and for a world that is living in fear. May each of us who have embraced Christ “be strong and of good courage” in the face of the fears that this pandemic brings.
Allow me to share a few thoughts now. We are seeing all kinds of suffering and pain around us, aren’t we? Sometimes the news is hard to watch but we need to stay informed since things change so rapidly. It is probably hard for us, as believers in a loving God, to come to grips with the reality of suffering and pain. Sometimes it is difficult to affirm that indeed God is in charge of our lives, despite the fact that we make choices.
I often think about the September 2001 terrorist attack. I actually learned about it from one of my sisters in Dallas, 75 minutes after the first attack in Manhattan. Jackie called me at 10am that fateful morning, assuming I was already dialed in to was happening. She called to assure me that our mom and dad were not in the air on a plane from Dallas to DC. Their flight, scheduled for later that day, had been cancelled. So I could be at peace that mom and dad were safe and on the ground. Wow… If they had been on an earlier flight they may have been in the air.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus might say to us in a situation where seemingly random things cause humans to suffer? Well, among other passages I am always driven to Luke 13:1-5 for insights on this. Take a brief look with me at these 5 verses. We see 2 incidents describing horrific human suffering, even sudden death, experienced by “innocent” human beings. Jesus is approached for His opinion about the first incident which was the horrible, intentional act of an evil leader perpetrated upon Galileans who showed up at the temple or synagogue. They seemingly, randomly “showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time.” Then Jesus brings up a second incident in which a tower fell, and when the dust finally settled, they discovered that 18 people had died. They had been randomly “walking down the wrong street at the wrong time.” The scriptures are so real, aren’t they? We read that kind of passage and have so many questions, don’t we? God doesn’t avoid the hard questions. There are no easy answers.
In fact, in this passage Jesus doesn’t try to give all the answers. He gives one very little insight that is far from an easy answer for us to hear. It is an uncomfortable answer. An answer that is so obvious but one that we try to avoid talking about in polite conversations in our western world. Jesus doesn’t talk about the fact that in the first incident it seems to be the “act of man,” and the second one seems to be the proverbial “act of God.” Nor does Jesus talk about the fact that these people, though sinful like all of us, were not being called out by God for specific, personal sins by these tragedies. Jesus doesn’t talk about the survivors and loved ones whose lives will never be the same. He doesn’t talk about the responsibility of Pilate, nor the possible responsibility of those who built the tower to have been more precise in their planning or engineering skills. All those, and other things, are what we would focus on because we want answers, don’t we? And rightly so.
But Jesus simply says that these tragic events should remind us that all of us are going to die and that we do not know when that will occur. So we should “get right with God” (i.e. repent) while we still have time. That’s it. That’s essentially all Jesus says. What a harsh sounding statement from Jesus in the face of pain and suffering. This is not all that the Bible says about these kinds of things. However, this is something that we, to our shame, neglect to say, despite the fact that IT IS ON ALL OF OUR MINDS ANYWAY!!! Jesus always keeps the main thing, the main thing.
So brothers and sisters, let us be alert to the need of the hour. We are in the middle of a unique, world-changing experience that is certainly defining and shaping this generation. Yes, people have physical, medical and financial needs. They have emotional and psychological needs. But let us not ignore the spiritual need of people.
God often uses times like these to bring awakening to a nation or a culture. “Unless we, like them, repent we will likewise perish.”’ May we be alert. May we be aware. May we be available.