Sometimes things happen in life when plans get disrupted and you must address the change head-on.
Today I planned on speaking about the saints in our lives. My message was supposed reemphasize a theme I started on All Saints Day. A call for all of us to honor the people who made us who we are today while recognizing our responsibility in shaping future generations.
But tragedy happened. And I couldn’t simply ignore it.
Late Friday, terrorists struck Paris. Some randomly shot at passers-by with AK-47s. Others became human bombs.
After a night of coordinated attacks at six locations around the French capital, 128 were dead. One survivor described the worst of the attacks as a fifteen-minute bloodbath.
Now I feel for you. No one wants to hear this kind of talk on a Sunday morning. You come here every Sunday to find comfort. To be lifted up. Church is a place of hope, not a reminder of the despair we see on the evening news.
And yet, it is in these dark moments of tragedy that God’s light is strongest. They remind us that when your life gets shaken up, you start to wonder where you are in relation with God.
Hopefully you discover that God never left your side. That it was more likely you that stepped away. Great tragedy remind us just how weak and vulnerable we really are without God.
Times such as these remind us that God doesn’t ignore us when the world crumbles under our feet. God refuses to let you drown in hopelessness. No, God is always digging you out of the rubble and pulling you out to save you. All you need to do is find his hand and grab on!
Of course there are more everyday tragedies in our lives that are just as painful. Take the story of Hannah from our readings in 1 Samuel.
Hannah was a woman of faith who suffered from her inability to bear children. Though she was greatly loved by her husband, the sadness she felt for her life was worsened by a rival of hers named Peninnah who bore lots of children.
And do you know what Peninnah said to irritate Hannah? “Hannah, the reason why you can’t bear children is because God doesn’t love you!”
I’m sure there are some of us here who get put down by the Peninnahs in our lives. And I’m not just talking about a person acting like a big jerk to you. I’m also talking about all the things in our lives that cause you distress, fear, anger.
Now what ties all of these together—the attacks in Paris, the suffering Hannah endured and the pain we go through in our daily lives—is that we all have a choice. We can allow these evils, these sources of pain and suffering to consume our lives. To make us feel weak and afraid.
Or we can choose the opposite.
As people of faith we can strive to stand tall despite great adversity. We might stumble. And standing up to such powerful forces isn’t ever easy. But we have the confidence that God is ultimately in control of every situation.
We can be confident that in the end, neither the evil of humanity or pain or suffering can ever destroy us.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. (BCP 124)