Summary: The question is not, "Why do bad things happen." The better question is, "Why were we spared." And the answer? Because we have a God who loves us!
Title: Flood Assurance
FCF: We are all judged and worthy of death, but God be praised we have an advocate who pleads to give us more time.
SO: I want my congregation to feel sympathy for the people of New Orleans, realizing that could just as easily have been us, and use that realization to guide them to praise for God.
I want to set the scene for you. A nation has already been reeling from an act of terrorism that still has tongues wagging. Then, a natural disaster grips them. A mighty tower has fallen, war & anarchy seems imminent, but you never know where it comes from. You can understand then, why people would want to understand why this happening.
Even as we mourn the devastation, and total anarchy in New Orleans, we’re only a week away from the anniversary of September 11th, you’d probably expect I’m talking about these things – but actually, I’m referring to a conversation that Jesus had two thousand years ago.
You see, even in the midst of tragedy, there is, as Ecclesiastes puts it, “nothing new under the Sun.” The death toll has surely increased, but the same questions remain. Why does a loving God let this happen to people who aren’t any worse than I am? And so, that’s where we begin.
Please, take your bibles, and turn to Luke 13:1-5. I want to concentrate on an exchange that Jesus has with some people precisely about this very question. Now, I want to concentrate on Luke 13:1-5, but in order for it to make sense, I want to read this passage in its greater context, so I’m going to start in 12:54 and read through 13:9. One scheduling note - even before this storm, I was planning another sermon that is going to look at the parable in verses 6 – 9. I’m planning on giving that sermon the week after homecoming, because I think that parable has a lot to say to us as a church, but for now, I want to focus on Luke 13:1 – 5.
I’ve been to the Gulf twice in my life. The second time was just last year, when I was at a computer conference in New Orleans. With all the pictures of the Superdome, you’ve no doubt heard and seen the Hyatt next door that had all its windows blown out. Well, I was on the 17th floor, looking right out over the Superdome. It’s been odd seeing pictures of a place that I’ve stayed be so prominently in the news. Then again, when the WTC went down, I kept thinking back to the time that Susan & I stayed in the WTC Marriott, which went down with the Towers. Probably the moral of the story is, don’t let me stay in your hotel.
The first time I was ever down in that area was in June, 2001, when I went to Houston. As my plane was touching down, that city was being flooded by Tropical Storm Allison. That morning, when I woke up, I saw flooding all around me, and let me tell you, if you’ve never seen a flood, it’s a humbling sight. When you see overpasses that are under water, it makes your heart skip a beat. I remember thinking Psalm 8 over and over again – “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”
I think its natural, whenever we see a disaster like this just to stand in awe. But, after the fact, we want understanding. The sheer enormity of an entire city under water is humbling. But when we see death and destruction, we want to know “Why?” What did they do? Anyone with half a heart string knows that the devastation on TV could just as easily happen to me.
Just in case you don’t believe that, let me suggest to you a few simple facts. You’re already seeing some of the fallout. I’ve watched the gas go from $2.59 to $4.19 at the gas station on Route 50. But I’m not talking about the fallout – the disaster could happen here.
In 1969, Hurricane Camille killed over 100 people in Virginia. Yes, they were down around Roanoke, but that isn’t so far away. Don’t think you need to live in Florida to hit by a hurricane.
You probably know that the single most fatal natural disaster ever to hit the U.S. in recorded history was the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco. But, do you know where the most powerful earthquake ever to hit was? It was in Missouri, centered right near a town called New Madrid. In 1806, this earthquake was so powerful, that it shook buildings in Washington! If you look carefully at a map of states like Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri, you’ll see that the Mississippi is supposed to be the border. Well, that’s true except every few miles you keep seeing parts of each state on the wrong side. Want to know why? It’s because that earthquake totally changed the course of the river. Don’t think that you need to live in California to be shaken by an earthquake.