Summary: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, Year C, 2013

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Luke 13: 1 – 9 / Where’s The River If It Doesn’t Rain?

Intro: I recently received an email containing several interesting questions: 1) why does the executioner rub alcohol on the arm of a person about to receive a lethal injection? 2) Why do we call the time of day when traffic moves the slowest “rush hour?” 3) Why is freight moved by a boat called “CARgo while freight moved on wheels is called a “SHIPment?” Life is full of questions!

I. A question that was clearly on the minds of those gathered around Jesus in Luke 13. “Why is there so much tragedy and suffering in the world?”

A. One can hardly open a newspaper or watch the evening news on TV without experiencing some senseless, brutal event. A grandmother kills her 2-year-old and infant grandsons and then kills herself. One horrible, senseless act after another causes us to question the future

B. Both the Jews and Greeks at the time of Jesus believed an individual was punished for their sins. So, if you suffered, it was because you deserved it.

C. God sent Christ Jesus so we might experience grace through Him, not judgment. But, the question still remains in our thinking: why do we suffer, why does tragedy come?

II. The belief that when God is angry, bad things happen still exists. We may joke about it when someone says something to which we believe God might take offense by saying, “I’m not sitting close to you. I don’t want to get hit when the lightening bolt comes through the window and zaps you.”

A. What logical reason can there be for a gunman to enter an elementary school and kill innocent children? Why would a person kill innocent people in a theater? Is it God’s purpose? Does God cause bad things to happen to good people?

B. Jesus knew the people believed the tragic massacre of Galileans mentioned in verses 1 & 2 was a direct result of some great sin they committed as was the tragedy of the fallen tower mentioned in verse 4.

C. Jesus acknowledges their sin but makes it clear that we cannot assume they were worse than others. In essence Jesus says in verses 3 & 5 “You need to change the way you think. You have no right to say that this calamity was a commentary on the lives of the Galileans or the 18 crushed at Siloam. These calamities are messages to you that if you don’t repent, you will perish like them.”

III. Jesus calls the people and us to repentance. To repent is not merely a change of mind. It is a change in thinking that results in a change of attitude and behavior.

A. Instead, we continue to ask, “Why did this happen? What did these people do to deserve this? Why must this senseless violence continue? --- There are many who cannot live without answers. They would rather have a simple answer than no answer at all. But the problem is these are the wrong questions to ask.

B. When you ask the wrong questions, you are going to get the wrong answer. To ask why innocent Jews were slaughtered, to ask why innocent by-standers were crushed by a falling tower, to ask why 3000+ Americans died on 9/11 --- These are the wrong questions.

C. It is not important that we know why. The critical questions for us is: “What now?” How does this tragedy change me?

Conclu: We would rather stand and wring our hands asking why? That accomplishes nothing. There is evil and suffering in the world. Bad things do happen to good people! We ask God, “Why don’t you do something about the evil in the world?” The return of Christ Jesus is nearer today than it was yesterday. Does that have any impact on the way in which we live our lives today?

We have all heard some expressions like, “Into every life a little rain must fall. Or, No pain; no gain!” These expressions do not give much comfort when we are the one experiencing the pain or the rain. Here is another question to ponder, “Where’s the river if it doesn’t rain?” Without the rain, there is no life-giving water. Without the suffering of Christ on the cross, there would be no salvation for us. How does our present suffering or pain change us and our world for the better?

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