Children of the Heavenly Father

On Sunday I said some words in response to the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT.   It was difficult to talk about this but I knew that something had to be said.  I shared the hope of Christmas, that God entered this world of suffering and overcame this world in Jesus Christ.  I shared words of peace and Good News.

Following the sermon I asked my small country congregation what hymn they would like to sing next.  And…without missing a beat, someone immediately said, “Hymn #781, Children of the Heavenly Father“.  I had to fight back tears when I heard that.  Here are the lyrics:

Children of the Heavenly Father safely in his bosom gather;

nestling bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e’er was given.

God his own doth tend and nourish, in his holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever;
unto them his grace he showth, and their sorrows all he knowth.

Though he giveth of he taketh, God his children ne’r forsaketh;
his the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.

We are indeed his children who are wrapped in God’s loving arms.  Evil, sin and death may cause havoc now, but they have ultimately been defeated through the cross.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Rewrite

There come times in a pastor’s ministry when a sermon needs to be scraped and completely rewritten at a moment’s notice.

Yesterday was such a time for me (and I would guess most pastors across this land).

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT has left many people in a state of confusion, sadness, fear, anger…and a list of other emotions.  People have been asking that all too difficult to answer “Why?” question.

Knee-jerk responses have been offered.
Political statements have been made.
Rumors have circulated.
Theories have been postulated.

All of which have not been too helpful…but they are natural responses to a horrific event.  But as a pastor, I need to respond in a different way.  I need to share the light of Christ in the midst of darkness; hope in the midst hopelessness; life in the midst of death; peace in the midst of chaos; Good News in the midst of Satan’s reign of tyranny.

We can not remain silent (even though I was not planning on preaching at Salem this morning).

You see…today is Christmas program Sunday at Salem (Belmont has their program on Saturday).  It’s a Sunday I usually don’t say too much because the kids “preach” the sermon.  I usually only offer up a couple words at Salem (preaching a full sermon at Belmont) and that’s it.

Not today

So as I wrote yesterday afternoon I found my fingers hi-jacked by the Holy Spirit as words flew across my lap top screen.  My faith was poured out into words as I reflected on the Christmas story; realizing that everything fit perfectly.  I was not deviating from the message the kids shared; for this is a season of hope.

For you see…Jesus was born into our world of suffering to bring hope.  Death and sin and evil do not have the last word…God does in Jesus Christ.  And that’s where I find comfort in the midst of such tragedy.  There are so many questions to ask and so many answers to seek.  But what we need to cling to is the love of God that was shown to us at Christmas and through the cross.  This world doesn’t make sense but praise be to God – God has overcome the world.  Find strength and healing in God through Jesus Christ and not in knee-jerk, worldly “answers”.

Blessings to you this day as you grieve and mourn with the hope of the resurrection. Praise be to God!

Have a Merry Christmas!

The pastor -|—

Jesus is the answer

As I sit here in my nice, comfortable living room; safe and sound; praying and thinking of those who are mourning the death of loved ones in Connecticut, I find myself speechless (or wordless).  I know there are many people out there that have so many questions.  And as a pastor, part of me feels that I need to come up with some wise answer and response to this senseless shooting.

Why did so many children have to die?
Why did anyone have to die?
What could possibly possess someone to walk into a school and start shooting?
What were they thinking?

So many questions
So much fear
So much anger
So much confusion

But the fact of the matter is this ~ We can’t make sense of this.  One thing we can conclude is that this is a sin-fallen world, but even that statement does not bring any healing.  Actually…it might even offend someone who is mourning. So we can’t just say that and stop.  That would be irresponsible.  It would be no different than how many people have tried to explain tragedies and natural disasters in our past.  Some have even gone so far as to say that God ordained such an event as a way to communicate something or announce judgement.  That too would be irresponsible on our part.

So what can we say now?

In the face of tragedy the only answer we have is Jesus.  That’s it…and that is all we need.

Jesus

Jesus came to us in love
Jesus announced forgiveness
Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave
Jesus has won the victory and that victory is ours through faith in him

That’s what is comforting me right now, but I am still sad.  A tragedy like this will do that to a person.  So in the mean time I will just run to God.  Running hard with open arms.  Running hard with tears of sadness and tears of joy.  Conflicted but victorious through Jesus Christ.

Don’t try to come up with an answer.  Don’t try to make sense of the senseless.  Run to God and listen.  Run to God and know healing.  Run to God and find hope.  Jesus is the answer.  Alleluia!

Loving and gracious God, our hearts go out to those who are mourning the death of loved ones but our hearts are also mourning and breaking.  Please bring us healing and hope that we may find strength in you to share healing and hope with those who are hurting.  Help us to see the victory over this world that Jesus won and gave to us through faith.  May we run to you and not to worldly wisdom.  Loving God, we worship and praise you in and through this storm.  Amen.

The pastor -|—