Summary: LENT 3, YEAR C - God is with Us. This is the heart of the Good News.
Do you find that there are times when you just have to ask ... Why? Why do they call it a TV set when you only have one? Why does your nose run and your feet smell? Why do doctors call what they do "practice?" Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii? Why is it that when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it’s called cargo? Why isn’t the word "phonetic" spelled the way it sounds? Why do tugboats push their barges? And, last but not least, why do they put Braille dots on the keypad of the drive-up ATM? Sometimes you just have to ask ... why?
A first year college student went to take his final exam in meteorology. The exam consisted of one essay question which read “Why is the sky blue?” In answer to this essay question the student wrote the following “Ah...A two point question. As to the first point ‘Why?’ This is a question that has plagued scholars, philosophers and theologians throughout the ages. Who am I, a mere freshman college student, that I should attempt to answer this eternal mystery. I must humbly submit that I do not possess the divine wisdom to answer this first point. But as to the second point, ‘Is the sky blue?’ The answer is “Yes.”
People seem to want to know why things happen as they do. Most especially “Why?” when it comes to tragedy and death. And it seems from today’s gospel reading that people haven’t changed all that much over the two thousand years since the death and resurrection of Jesus. People, then, as now, avidly discussed the latest news of death and destruction and try to understand its significance. Why was the USS Cole bombed? Why has there been so much violence in our schools. Why do good people suffer and die when the those who commit evil seem to get away with the evil they do. Why, Why, Why? This deep need to know the why of suffering has led many to formulate some bazaar answers. Like the paramedic when he was unable to revive a choking toddler said to the child’s mother, “You should be happy that you have other children.” Or that notorious statement, “God must have needed another angel in heaven.” In our need to know why we struggle to come up with a meaning for suffering that we can then live with. But just because we can live with our specific answer to why doesn’t necessarily means that those around us can live with that same answer. And there’s the rub.
We do not know precisely what tragedy some people told Jesus about on the day that our reading originally took place, all we know for sure is that several Galileans were killed in or near the temple by Pilate’s soldiers as they prepared to offer their sacrifices to God. Nor do we have a record of the tragedy involving the collapse of the tower in Siloam that killed eighteen people. All we know for sure is that then, as now, tragedy struck and people died and still other people talked about it, and tried to make sense of it. Whenever bad things happen, whenever senseless things happen, the human instinct is to try to make sense of it. It’s called the search for meaning. A man named Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychologist, developed a psychological counseling approach around this search for meaning. He called it Logo Therapy. A model for therapy developed not in the ivory halls of Cambridge, Harvard, or Yale, but while imprisoned in a German concentration camp during WW II. As Frankl sought to survive the horror of ethnic cleansing he began observing his fellow prisoners in the hope of discovering what coping mechanism would help him endure this horrendous existence. What Frankl discovered was this: Those individuals who could not accept what was happening to them, who could not make their present suffering fit with their faith, who could not find it’s meaning in their world view. Despaired, lost hope, and eventually gave up and died. But those individuals that found meaning from their faith for their suffering, were then able to find hope for a future beyond their present suffering, and so could accept what they were enduring as a part of their existence, and therefore survived.
Yes! It is a part of our very nature to ask the question “Why?” Why did my father die now? Why was our son taken from us? Why did God allow that mother of three children to die of cancer"? We all want to make sense of the senseless, we want to know why certain things occur, and that is often a good thing. For example: when buildings collapse, like the tower in Siloam collapsed, investigations are done to find out why so that, just perhaps, such a tragedy will not occur again. Generally speaking wanting to know why is not a bad thing, but sometimes the urge to figure out why leads us astray, it leads us as we have seen to some rather bizaar conclusions. It can also lead us into assigning blame and guilt to people that do not deserve it, or who at least do not deserve it any more or less than do we. I remember when Rosemary and I pastored in Houlton Maine a young woman was killed one hunting season when she was mistaken for a deer. She had simply been hanging up her families clothes in her own back yard. As the TV news carried the story of the hunter’s arrest and arraignment for murder one woman interviewed had this to say, "Well, it was the woman’s own fault. She should have know better than to go out into her back yard during hunting season.” In the state of Maine the jury found the hunter “Not Guilty.” That’s it, blame the victim. Ah, the American way! Some people, in their quest to understand, reveal that they have all the compassion and sensitivity of a dead toad. The implication was that this young mother somehow deserved what had happened to her. Just as in today’s reading the implication is made by those talking about the Galileans killed by Pilate that somehow they deserved to die because they were sinners. We know this by Jesus’s reply,