Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Lent Lectionary Series C
Third Sunday in Lent
Sin=Suffering, No !!
The hardest question a pastor might face is:" Why did God let this happen". "This" may be the death of a loved one, child, spouse, or friend. " This" maybe the lingering agony of a cancer patient, the total destruction of all property by a killer tornado, or this maybe the wanton act of a depraved criminal.
This Great Why is the most difficult question any Christian has to face. In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus addresses this question. Two situations were brought up, one was concerning the death of some Galileans by Pilate because of their supposed insurrection and the other situation about a tower of Siloam that fell end killed 18 people. Jesus asks a rhetorical questions, asking "Are these people worse sinners because they suffered more, and each time he answers no.
Jesus does not equate individual sin to suffering. But he does equate suffering to sinful nature, to the sinful world in which we live. Jesus says because of sin all will perish, he urges repentance by all people whether they have been involved in a tragedy or not.
Jesus was addressing a problem that was important in his day and is still important today. The view people have of God that shows him to be an angry father, meting out some punishment for every disobedience of children. The question that is asked time and time again, "What did I do to deserve this." If this were the way of God, wouldn’t we be getting more pain, more suffering than we are? Many people have not grown up in their relationship with that God so they can view God in this kind of way. God is not the angry Judge, judging each deed then giving out the punishment of sickness, death and tragedy as he sees fit. This is not the correct view of God as we see him in scripture, but sadly, many people have this kind of theology. Everything that happens, everything good or bad comes from God.
My brother served his first parish in Massillion, Ohio, as an associate pastor, with the late Pastor Mourice "Mo" White. Pastor White was a very large, strong and vibrant man.
During one Lenten season, one of the older, but faithful members of the church came with her husband to an evening Lenten service. As they were leaving the service, the woman somehow fell down the outside flight of steps and broke her hip. For some unknown cause, she did not recover from the hip surgery and died in a few short days. Pastor White stood with the bereaved husband by the casket the night before the funeral.
Many people came to offer their sympathies. Some were saying to the sorrowing husband,"God must of had a plan for this, so accept it." Another said,"It was God’s will and we must live by it." Still another said,"Somehow God planned this to test your faith!!" And still another said,"There is a sliver lining in every cloud, you will find God’s reason behind this eventually."
Pastor White left that funeral home filled with a very strong emotion of anger at the "babbling", as he put it, he heard that evening. He went to the study and rewrote the beginning of his funeral sermon.
Pastor White began his funeral sermon with this phrase:"My God does not push old ladies down church steps!!!"
Then he proceeded to explain that God cannot be blamed or accused for all the brokenness of this world. If God is the author of death, how, how can He be at the same time the author of life as shown through the resurrection we celebrate each Sunday and especially on Easter. Is God the God of the living, or the God of the dead? You cannot have it both ways.
No, God is more than the angry Judge, God is more than a avenging father meting out punishment to fit the crime. There is more to God than this.
Look at the story of the call of Moses and you will see a kind, compassionate God who cares for his people, who doesn’t want to see his people suffer any longer. God said to Moses, "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmaster; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians."
Notice God didn’t say, "Moses I am sorry I have caused your people to suffer, and now I want to changed that, I will deliver them out of this suffering that I have caused." No way, God did not take responsibility for the suffering the people were encountering. But what he did do, what he is even still doing today, is delivering the people away from suffering, he is and does care for the suffering of people .