Sermons

Summary: Four principles that help us deal with tragedy

“HOW TO HANDLE TRAGEDY”

SELECTED PASSAGES

OPEN

The Poisonwood Bible is a novel written by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s about a family who in 1959 move from the state of Georgia in the USA to a small village in the Belgian Congo to swerve as missionaries. The family is comprised of Nathan Price and his long-suffering wife Orleanna along with their five daughters. Rachel is the oldest. Leah and Ada are twins. Ruth May is the baby.

Early one morning the girls go to the chicken coop. It was there they saw the vile creature that had been terrorizing the village – a green mamba snake. Green mambas are a combination of speed, camouflage, and deadly venom.

The girls are brave but foolish. They chase the snake from out of the chicken coop. And it’s at this point they hear the sound that would bring drastic alteration to their lives. Little Ruth May had followed her sisters to the chicken coop but she was just far enough behind that she encountered the snake just as it fled. When the snake struck, Ruth May cried out but only briefly. Death was almost instantaneous.

Kingsolver has Rachel, the oldest daughter, say: “The whole world would change then, and nothing would ever be all right again. Not for our family. All the other people in the whole wide world might go on about their business, but for us it would never be normal again.”

Rachel’s sentiment about what happened to her baby sister probably reflects the way we felt ten years ago today. As a nation, we watched in stunned disbelief as two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center. We sat glued to televisions and heard about the attack on the Pentagon and the failed attempt that was probably headed for the White House or for the Capitol Building. We shed tears and watched as thousands of people died as the towers of the WTC collapsed killing not only the employees within but also brave responders who sought to rescue those in trouble because of the tragedy.

Most of you probably remember exactly where you were when you first heard the news. I was preaching in French Lick at the time. My children had gone to school and my wife to her job as a dental assistant. I was waiting at the parsonage for some men who were coming to replace a screen door.

I normally would have had The Fox News Channel playing while I was waiting but this morning I didn’t. I had a southern gospel music program playing on the satellite as I took care of some things around the house. When the men got there, they asked me if I’d heard that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the WTC. They said they heard it on the radio in their truck on the way out.

I immediately tuned in and watched the replay of the first plane. Then I watched in horror as the second plane crashed into the other tower. It was clear by now this was no accident. I spent the whole day glued to the TV as I bounced back and forth between unbridled anger and abject sorrow. I prayed for those who suffered and raved at those who had perpetrated such horrendous atrocities.

Nobody is immune from disaster. Everyone here, if you haven’t already, will face tragedy. It’s inevitable. Everybody will go through some form of crises; some type of tragedy in their lives.

We live in a broken world. 9-11-2001 was just a reminder that we live in a world where tragedy is just part of life. Here recently there have been hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. All have caused a great wake of suffering and loss.

The Bible is very clear that bad things do happen – even to innocent people. In Lk. 13:1-5 – Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

A tower falls over and kills 18 people. Another group of people are killed while they’re worshiping God. Tragedies. But Jesus says here that when we hear about tragedy we shouldn’t seek someone to blame. Instead we should take stock of our own lives. We should reflect and see if there are any changes we need to make in the way we’re living.

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