In the Light of Tragedy, How Do We Respond?

Old Testament Lesson Jeremiah 8:18 -9:1
18 My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. 19 Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. “Has the LORD abandoned Jerusalem??” the people ask. “Is her King no longer there?” “Oh, why have they provoked my anger with their carved idols and their worthless foreign gods?” says the LORD.
20 “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone,” the people cry, “yet we are not saved!” 21 I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief.
22 Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people? 91? If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered.
Epistle Lesson 1 Timothy 2:1-7
1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. 7And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth.
Gospel Lesson Luke 16:1-13
1Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. 2So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’
3“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. 4Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’
5“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ 6The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.?’
7“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’
8“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 9Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to
benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
10“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?
13“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Sermon
Have you found yourself so busy that you lose sense on what's the most important?
Anyone involved in children's activities in and out of school, they all expect 100% of your available time to commit to the band, lacrosse or football, swim club, drama club, scouting, honor society, etc… etc… So if your children are involved in multiple activities how do you sort out which gets priority of your time and resources? It's a mad mad juggling act isn't it? This doesn't include the requirements of work, or other family needs, and you can't afford for you or anyone to get sick….my my!
Jesus, in His teaching saw this as well. Understanding the priorities in one's life is one thing and living them out, particularly under hardship, adversity and tragedy, is another thing altogether.
We just had another national tragedy didn’t we? It occurred Monday in the Navy Yard in Washington and it involved incomprehensible needless violence in a workplace once thought to be safe.
We want to understand why, and we are yet again confronted with life priorities, aren't we, when see people like you and I going about their daily business and their lives are so abruptly snuffed away. When we hear of such events that are too close to home, it causes us to shudder in much the same way Jeremiah shuddered at the state of his people when he cried out in chapters 8 & 9, "My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land…If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered"
• How do we as people of faith respond?
• Do we become activists on gun control or do we favor a better system addressing the mental health issues that surround so many of these bleak tragedies?
• Or, do we go back to fundamental spiritual principles to guide us through?
In Jesus' story, in Luke 16, He tells of a manager whose boss was ready to fire him because of fraud, waste and abuse in the business. Knowing he was about to be fired, the manager assessed the situation and determined the best way to help his future security is to build bridges with his boss's clients. So, he instructed each of them that were in debt to his employer to adjust their bills so they owed less.
Now we all know what the manager did was unscrupulous, however, his boss admired his shrewdness.
It is here that Jesus makes his point, if the children of the world are shrewd in dealing with the world around them for ill, should not the children of the light be just as shrewd in their dealings for good?
If a dishonest man can use canny tactics when faced with hardship to ensure his welfare, shouldn't we be just as ingenious using our world resources to benefit others and build relationships?
It's those fundamental elemental acts and behaviors that need prioritization. So often the believer is faced with big dilemmas, such as, why did the shooting occur in the Navy Yard or why did so many have to die by the bombing at the Boston Marathon, that they don't have a reply or response.
Jesus taught that in order to grasp the big things we have to have the fundamentals down pat in the small things. As a basketball player I may hit 8 out of 10 baskets, but if I don't have the fundamentals of dribbling, I'm unable to contribute to my team at all.
? If I can't handle the fundamentals of faith, I'm never going to understand the bigger issues, am I?
? If I handle money and the resources God gives me now, how can I ever appreciate the true value and riches of heaven?
? If I mismanage other’s things, how am I going to manage my own life? But tell me, how often do we meddle in the lives of others and yet we don't have our own act together?
So, if I can't seem to balance my home life with my work life, with my church life with my kid's / grandkid's lives, etc…etc…then, how can God entrust me with understanding what to do with those bigger than life issues such as the shootings in Sandy Hook, Colorado, or the Navy Yard? Or the fires in California, floods in Colorado, or the gassing of innocents in Syria?
Jesus explains that if our priorities are divided we're not much good to ourselves or to God. In verse 13 we remember Him saying, "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. "
So, how do we prioritize and grasp what is God-driven over and against what is self-driven? We're so accustomed to what the world says we must value that we assume that's what God values too….and thus our bind, how do we sort it all out?
Well, according to Paul in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 2, we must first of all (not as a last resort) pray.
And when you pray you need to
1. Pray Inclusively, not selectively. He says pray for ALL PEOPLE, not just those who you are moved to pray for. Remember how Jesus once said that we are even to pray for our enemies?
2. Pray of All in Authority. "Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity." We may not know how to deal with a Navy Yard shooting or the floods in Colorado, or the gassing of kids in Syria, but we can pray God will give wisdom, insight, and skill to those who are in a position to make a difference.
3. Praying for others Pleases God. When we pray for others we are opening doors for God to work in their lives so that as Paul says, “everyone has an opportunity to be saved and understand the truth.”
4. Prayers for Reconciliation. According to Paul, there is only one true Mediator that can make a difference, Christ Jesus Himself, who by giving His life, He purchased freedom for everyone–freedom from sin, from self, from our past, from our guilt, from our fears–and by virtue of this freedom His is able to reconcile God and humanity.
In other words, when we pray for others, even those difficult people in our lives, yes; when we pray for others, even those politicians we oppose; yes, when we pray for others we see God bringing good, bringing purpose, bringing needful change, bringing hope, bringing healing, bringing tolerance, bringing understanding, and bringing forgiveness to the horrors in the hallowed hallways of Sandy
Hook Elementary and the Navy Yard–and yes also, extending to the streets of bloodshed in Boston and to the suffering images of those dying in their beds in Damascus.
Jesus says we need to be aware that the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God are in opposition, and if we want to grasp what our purpose is and what God has in store for us not only in this life but in the next we need to choose which kingdom is our priority. The world will keep you so busy it will run you to your death…but is this God's purpose for you?
And by being overloaded by the worlds concerns, what does that get you in the end? Does it help you solve Global Warming, establish World Peace, or eliminate violence in the school hall, the workplace or the theater?
Paul again, gives practical advice to us, but we need to practice the fundamentals of that advice in much the same way a player needs the fundamentals of dribbling in basketball, throwing a ball in baseball, or catching a throw in football. That practical advice again is Prayer. Stop, drop and pray will save the day.
Pray inclusively for everyone, even those hardheaded disagreeable ones.
Pray for your bosses, supervisors, your state and federal representatives, your local councils, your pastor, your Ad Board, SPRC and Trustee Chair, your president, the head of the UN, of Syria and Russia, as well. If we don't we're just spinning our wheels and we find we've become a part of the problem and not the solution.
Our Prayers Please God. When we pray for others rather than for ourselves, we are demonstrating where our hearts are. We're making God and His kingdom on earth our priority and His purposes are of greater importance than our task or to do lists.
Our Prayers Usher in and pave the way for the Mediator. We often wonder where God is in sickness, disease, homelessness, joblessness, economic dismalness, war and violence in our home-square. All along He's at the door waiting to be let in. Prayer removes our resistance, our limited thinking, our need for control and allows the Mediator, our Savior, to do what He does best: make right, heal, restore and transform.
So, what are you going to do first? PRAY!

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