In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Why is there suffering? The pat answer which is true and logical, but doesn’t comfort you is this: sin. Human sin has ruined the universe. Adam’s sin set decay in motion till the orderly universe malfunctions in such spectacular fashion that thousands die of natural causes, and cancer and disease steal not only the aged, but increasingly the young. It just happens. More often than not it isn’t directly linked to anything you are aware of having done to deserve it. We all know that certain behaviours can increase the chances of certain types of diseases. But what about the person who never engages in those behaviours, who tries to live as good as possible and still gets those diseases and dies before their time? It seems so wrong. So unfair. And we lose heart.
The Bible’s answer to why there is suffering is clear: it is because of the general effects of sin on universe, on our bodies, and on physical world. Death came by one man’s sin. Life and hope came by one man’s death. We don’t like the Bible’s answer for why there is suffering because we want to think we are not part of it. That we are good. That we do not deserve what happens to all people one way or another. For all sin, and all suffer. I don’t know what you suffer. You don’t know what I suffer. But though my suffering be physical or financial does not make your mental or emotional suffering less than mine. All suffer.
More importantly than why is what. What has our God done!?! We get caught in Satan’s trap of fixating on the why and denying we are part of it so easily. He is the one who tempted, pushed, and titillated Adam and Eve and each one of us till we do he wants. And remember he’s a liar and murderer. He delights in suffering. He will do what he can to extend it, prolong it and cut you off from He who died to bring your suffering to an end. But just because you’ve been bullied, tricked, or tempted into doing what he wants, you can’t blame anyone else in world for what you suffer, because everyone of us has sinned. Some in bigger ways than others. Some only in thoughts and words. Some in wicked actions. But all are equally guilty for in God’s legal code if you break one of His Laws, you have broken them all. All are equally guilty no matter how hard you’ve tried to be good. For all have failed at every point of God’s Law. If not in action, in words. If not in words, in thoughts. Repent. You are no less guilty than anyone else. You are a poor, miserable sinner. If you think you aren’t you are deluding yourself.
It is true that in Holy Absolution God has declared you righteous and forgiven on account of His beloved Son. But until that Day when He comes again and our dying bodies will be changed into perfect, immortal, imperishable bodies we dare not forget how wretched our sinful state is. That is true even of you, dear Christian. But remember the truth will set you free. Acknowledging this truth of the reality and power of your sin allows you to stop deluding yourself. Christians by power of the Holy Spirit can and do overcome wicked destructive behaviours in their lives. They can and do get better. But because of the sin living in you you will never stop sinning till you die physically. You will always be dependent upon Jesus. But God be praised, the highest worship of Him is to come and receive His forgiveness of you! That is your victory over sin. Not a spotless record on earth. Him and Him alone. His grace that covers your sins. His mercy that puts your old murderous self to death in Holy Baptism. For that old self is a murderer. He is always raring to go, just waiting for the chance that if you feed him enough, and give him enough rein over your life that he will take over and make a murderer out of you. But the power of Christ works miracles. He puts sin and sinners to death. And raises saints from for Himself.
Our Lord is for you. When He approached the tiny town of Nain He saw a dead man, the only begotten son of His mother. And she a widow. A woman whose hope, whose life, whose joy was savagely taken away from her. It makes you wonder if He wasn’t thinking of His own mother whom Simeon had warned that her soul would be pierced by a sword on His account. Whatever the reason He saw her in her pain and heartbreak and He felt in His gut as though He had been sucker punched. His heart went out to her. He rushed forward. He stopped the funeral procession dead in its tracks. He grabbed hold of the coffin and said, “Young man, arise!” And the dead man sat bolt upright, babbling incessantly. For the Word of God in the Flesh had spoken a word of life into him and he overflowed with it. Our Lord took that dead man and gave him back to his mother to be her pride and joy, her hope and her future. The Lord gave His heart to her.
He does that for you. For we, the Church, are like her. We long for life for our sons. We mourn our losses. Our fathers, mothers, daughters, husbands, wives. Cal. Marg. Reino. Aileen. Niilo. Art and so many others. It is enough to crush us and lose heart eternally. But your Lord’s heart goes out to you. He took the sucker punch of death for you. He will restore to you your loved ones who die in Him. Not yet. But soon. For a short time we live without them. But we remember them. We remember the blessings of the Lord to us through them. We honour them by living in the same faith and Lord they trusted in.
For Jesus is the Prophet whose word brings life. He is greater than Moses, Elijah, or Elisha. He desires to wipe the tears from your eyes. Like the widow we long for life. For even though we are the Church we live under the cloud of death. But the Lord shatters the power of grave dispersing those gloomy clouds with His liberating word. So repent for forgiveness is yours in Christ Jesus. God has visited His people. He has spoken His life into you. He will feed you the food of immortality yet again today. Just as He has already has raised in Holy Baptism. God has come, dead men are raised to life. And some day soon like those who have gone before us we will see it. For His heart has gone out to us.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON