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Summary: A Pastoral Response to the Virginia Tech Events of April 16, 2007

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INTRODUCTION: Common Questions about tragic events--

• Why is there so much evil in the world?

• Why do innocent people suffer?

• Where was God when this happened?

A--TRUE STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCED TRAGIC EVENTS IN THEIR LIVES AND THEIR ULTIMATE RESPONSE TO THE TRAGEDIES THEY FACED.

1. Frederick Buechner, Presbyterian minister and author: "Life works us all over before it’s done." Conclusions based on the experience of his father’s suicide, his own depression and his faith experience:

• In the Scripture, even the greatest heroes were depicted with not only all of their strengths but also their flaws.

• The motif of Scripture is that with God, the seemingly worse things were never the last things.

• God is like an ingenious alchemist who can take lead and somehow transmute it into gold. God always has something else that God is able to do.

2. John Claypool, Episcopalian priest and theologian: Interview about the death of his 10-year-old Daughter:

“My anger? Well I understood my anger as just the frustration that is natural when the way it is so much less than the way it was. I think anger is utterly appropriate. It is frustration. It’s wanting things to be one way when they are another. But what I did was to openly acknowledge my frustration. I always reminded myself that the depth of my grief corresponded to the depth of my love. If I had not had deep affection for Laura Lou then I wouldn’t have been all that upset about her death. The more profoundly we love, the more profoundly we go into grief when something is taken away that we love… But what helped me more than anything was realizing that she was a gift and not a possession. There is a mystery about her death that I still don’t understand but there’s a deeper mystery about her birth: that I ever got to be with that little girl for a single day. And that can never be taken away. And that’s incredible good fortune. Something I did not deserve, something that was not in any way an entitlement. It was a sheer and total gift…The night I realized that Laura Lou was a gift and not a possession, that she had belonged to Another before she had ever come into my life, it didn’t lessen the sadness one iota and I wish to God that she was still living, but what it did do was save me from a lifetime of bitterness and resentment that frankly wouldn’t change anything. Resentment is acid in our souls. It wouldn’t have brought her back; it wouldn’t have made me any better. Thinking of her as a gift and not a possession freed me from spending the rest of my life with my fist in the face of God and led me to open my hands in astonished gratitude that I had ever gotten to know her at all.”

Winston Churchill—“Never, never give up!”

B—A HELPFUL METAPHOR: GOD AS AN ALCHEMIST (Buechner)

As I try to make sense out of the terrible events of this past Monday in Blacksburg, VA that has touched all of us to one extent or another, I do indeed find these insights from Buechner to be particularly helpful:

• In the Scripture, even the greatest heroes were depicted with not only all of their strengths but also their flaws.

• The motif of Scripture is, that with God, the seemingly worse things were never the last things.

• God is like an ingenious alchemist who can take lead and somehow transmute it into gold. God always has something else that God is able to do.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us… Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

CONCLUSION: God’s answer to the Good Fridays in our lives is Easter. Therein lies our hope.

PRAYER:

I invite you to pray with me now:

The Psalmist wrote:

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”—Psalm 30:5

O God, We pray for your Spirit’s presence of comfort to be with all victims and families involved in the tragedy of the Virginia Tech massacre. We pray for those souls that have lost their lives, even for the soul of the one who performed this atrocious act. We pray for continued strength to come to all those involved including the heroic students who helped save other lives, the wounded and their families, the staff and faculty of Virginia Tech, the other students and friends left behind, the counselors and pastors who minister to the friends and families, the police, rescue workers and medical personnel—just give strength to everyone affected today.

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