Sermon on John 11:1-45, Psalm 130 4/6/2014

 

Lord, if you had been here, they would not have died. All of those Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, Sons, Husbands and Wives. Lord, if you had been there those people would not have died. That wall of water and mud would not have cascaded down, burying dozens homes, dozens of people. Lord if you had been there those people whom you claim to treasure whom you claim to love would not have died!

And is not just up in Oso. Lord if you had been there when my son overdosed. When my daughter got behind the wheel. When my spouse got cancer. Lord if you had been there they would not have died. And Lord if you had been here, here in this place, you would not have let this congregation dwindle and it’s pastor leave.

 Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. Out of the depths of anguish, unspeakable pain, and soul numbing loss. We cry to you Lord watching for the morning… but there is not much hope of that at this dark hour.

And frankly, I’m not impressed, I don’t buy your response, Jesus. You say, “It is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” You mock our pain, trivialize it, you use it for your own advantage, your own glorification. How about you just show your glory by ending suffering and loss, stopping death before it happens? Before it destroys and scatters everything we have and everything we know… I mean where is your glory in the unspeakable tragedies of life? Where is it?!

I don’t why God lets these things happen. I don’t know why God allows evil and darkness to persist. Sure there are theological formulas, biblical proof texts, and various justifications. But when it comes right down to it, they all seem to fall flat as I look out into a world so needlessly marred with such deep sorrow and pain. I don’t understand why God won’t just end human trafficking, why he continues to allow people to become addicted, why he still lets parents and mentors abuse the very children they were entrusted to protect. I don’t understand why this all powerful God allows evil to continue to have its way, seemingly unchecked. I don’t know why people have to go through so much pain.

But, I do know one thing. Jesus wept. When he was faced with the death of his dear friend and the overwhelming grief of his family, Jesus wept. His spirit was deeply moved and his compassion poured out, out from his eyes and down his cheeks, both sorrow and love flowed, mingled down. “See, how he loved them!”

I don’t why bad things still happen, why evil is allowed to persist, but I know we don’t gaze alone into that breach, I know we don’t stand alone in our sorrow. Jesus stands with us, he grieves with us in our darkest night. He remembers, he knows, what it feels like to be alone, isolated and in the dark. Singer songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it this way:

The man of all sorrow,

never forgot,

what sorrow is carried

by the hearts that he bought.”

 

Jesus, the man that prayed alone in the garden, who was abandoned, beaten and crucified remembers, he knows what it’s like to experience pain and loss. And so we may not know why these things happen, but we know we don’t go through them alone.

We also know that Jesus doesn’t just grieve with us in our darkness. He ends that darkness. He brings light. He shines in our darkness and is not overcome. He raises Lazarus, heals the blind and lifts up those who are on the margins, those who have lost their homes, their loved ones, and even their pastor. Jesus waits with us as we watch for the morning, but he also brings about that morning, that glorious and hope filled Easter morning.

 “Lord if you had been there they would not have died.” I don’t wish to brush aside this accusation, it runs deep, it comes from the depths of the soul. Know that it is a normal question, a human question. Know that God can handle your doubt. Know also that God through Jesus is bringing resurrection, beauty from ashes, new life from a mountain of mud.

Amen.

 

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