Friday, April 19, 2013

Bad News Week

It has been a rough week. In Boston, bombs at a marathon wounded more than a hundred people and killed 3. In Iraq, a bomb in a coffee shop killed 27 people and injured dozens more. In West, Texas a fertilizer plant exploded killing thirteen people and destroying homes and buildings. A massive manhunt closed the city of Boston. There was an earthquake in Pakistan, and violent fallout from an election in Venezuela. Here in Richmond, we heard the announcement that Freedom House is closing after almost 30 years of caring for those most in need in our community—closing not because there are no longer people in need of food and shelter in Richmond, but because they do not have the financial support they need to stay open. And that’s to say nothing of the ongoing problems of violence in Syria and tensions with North Korea that were bumped to the back burner by stories of destruction closer to home.

With all that going on, I didn’t want to write a sermon this week. I didn’t want to try to create anything, or do anything. I just wanted to pray, to cry out to God in anger and frustration, to read the news and weep for the victims, the survivors, and a world where such horrible things happen every day. I sat staring at the blinking cursor on my blank computer screen for HOURS.

Then I started to snap out of it. I remembered that the very reasons that I don’t want to write this sermon are the reasons that we, my congregation and community, need to have the word of God proclaimed. It’s when we’re surrounded by this sort of pain and brokenness that we most need the healing and restoration that God gives in worship, in prayer, and in Scripture. It’s when the bad news seems to be everywhere that we most need God’s good news to shore us up and spur us to action.

Yes, terrible things happen. There is bad news. There is suffering, violence, disease. There are unjust trials and crucifixions. But they are not the end. Those things do not get the last word. After the long night there is dawn. After destruction there is recovery. After torture, suffering, and death there is resurrection.

Yes, there were people who planted bombs in a coffee shop in Iraq and at the marathon in Boston. But there were also people who came running to help. There were more people who offered their help and their prayers than there were people who caused this destruction.

This is the Easter season. This is the season when we remember that a horrific death on a cross was overcome by an empty tomb. This is the season when disciples who denied Christ get a chance to proclaim their love for their Savior. This is the season when we face down death and rejoice, trusting that life is more powerful than death, that hope is more powerful than despair, that good will ultimately overcome evil—because that is the victory Christ has given, and that is the kingdom of God that has been promised. Thanks be to God!

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