Last weekend we experienced a tragedy. At Captivate we chose to address the questions people have in times like these. Below is both the video and raw notes from the message. The notes are unedited but may be useful for following along during the sermon or to study at a later time. I’m posting for the benefit of our members and their friends.
The focus of this sermon is Jesus. You will not find easy or flippant answers here but I believe what you will find is genuine faith that gives genuine hope in times of trial and turmoil. If you have need for a pastor and you do not have a home church, feel free to reach out to me at Pastor@CaptivateChurch.com
Simply Jesus week 3: Fear, Tears, Hope & Mission
This week our nation experienced a tragedy. In Newtown, CT a 20 year old young man killed 26 people (of whom 20 are children). As a pastor it is always difficult and sensitive to decide whether or not to address a tragic event such with the focus of an entire sermon. I felt it was important and within the scope of our ‘Simply Jesus’ series to go ahead and speak directly to this horrific incident.
Over the next few days, weeks and months you will hear all sorts of theories as to how to prevent the next tragedy. In an effort to sell to the public a mirage of a utopian world where evil doesn’t exist, politicians will promise this perfect world to citizens if only they can get a few more votes, a few more dollars and a few more years of power. The truth is, this world is not utopia. This world is full of evil and pain and sorrow and grief. It is for this reason that we are told that heaven is uniformly unlike this world.
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
This is the honesty that is the gospel. The gospel is literally translated “GOOD NEWS”. In order for GOOD NEWS to be appealing, one must first understand the BAD NEWS that this world is at times not appealing at all. There are times when this world is, to the Christian, the greatest hell we will ever face.
Christians break when Christians have a cotton candy faith. A cotton candy faith is a sugary sweet mix of all of the good without any of the bad… it is the Christian’s version of a utopia. Our faith is to be an honest faith. The Lord shows us through scripture the REALITY of this world.
So what are we to understand when it comes to processing pain in this and each tragedy to come?
We are to understand that Jesus Christ understands.
A cotton candy faith that does not often speak of the reality of sin, evil, pain and turmoil is one that is absolutely USELESS in times like this. A cotton candy faith is useless when comforting a mourning family, a questioning child or a world that screams with raised fist asking the question ‘Where was your god?’ A cotton candy faith is useless in addressing the worst of this world. We cannot simply talk hope and optimism without being honest enough to ask if God really understands the tragedy that we go through.
The GOOD NEWS of the GOSPEL is that Jesus fully understands. It is for these moments, when we hear the news of a murderous rampage and feel the air and strength exit our bodies, that we need to see Jesus as both our companion in pain and our triumphant victor over death, sin and evil. There will be a day when every tear is gone but for us that day has not yet come.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Long before Calvary, Jesus was a refugee.
* Do you see Mary? We focus on the nativity and the horrible conditions of a cave-like birthing room… but think about the days after the magi’s visit… she finds that her son is targeted for death!
God’s son was marked at birth for execution. That is the reality of the birth of Christ. Those are the conditions that his family knew. He fully understands even the greatest of fears and fragilities of this life.
Why should it bring any comfort to know that Jesus understands? Understanding is important to bring weight to the other promise…his name is “Immanuel: God with us”. God IS with US. We are not alone in this. The fear, the tears, the anger, the sense of hopelessness… all of these feelings are identical to those of his family during the earliest moments of Christ’s life. He knows and he cares. When you see injustice, violence, oppression, poverty, pain… HE IS WITH US IN ALL OF IT! Christ is the ultimate companion.
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
There is no rationale for the irrational.
We cannot make sense of this act and it is irresponsible for us to even attempt to give logic to the illogical act of murdering children. In these times one of the worst things a Christian can do is to pretend that there is an answer simply waiting to have a bow wrapped around it. There is no rationale for this act of atrocity.
Look to the scriptures: “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Rightly so! There are no words that will make a mother of a murdered child ‘understand’. There is no understanding to the act to be had. We live in an evil world. Again, to the Christian, this is the greatest hell we will ever experience and to the person who stands as an enemy of God, this is the greatest heaven that person will experience. We live in a time of tension.
- As Herod goes on his rampage, his vendetta is taken out on innocence.
- In fact… this act is called the “Slaughter of the Innocents”.
- He commits an act of atrocity comparable to any act we will see in our lifetime… he murders purely the young and innocent by their age in an effort to kill off the KING OF KINGS!
- In the worst twist we find that he dies merely a few years after the birth of Christ.
- Historians have long documented that Herrod battled depression, paranoia and a host of other personal ailments.
- HEROD was irrational. You cannot try to explain away the acceptability of these actions. They are not acceptable. People are made in the image of God and they are not to be destroyed by the hands of men.
- We cannot explain it… we should not be comfortable with it… but it is for this reason that this world is not our home and we look to the birth of the Lord and this baby… this God… came into OPPRESSION…. Came into poverty… came into a world that wanted to kill him from the start… into all of this drama and strife and evil and murder came a baby to SAVE IT ALL!
The Return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
After the fear and the tears there is hope and a mission.
- In every tragedy there is a time when we will hear from the Lord as Joseph, Mary and the little child Jesus heard… “Get Up”.
- We must get up. Not immediately… not without time… not in a rushed way… but we must get up and go forward to proclaim the message of the gospel as the hope of the world.
- The EVIL in this world teaches children that they are the product of primordial soup mixed with chance and time. The Word of God proclaims that EVERY LIFE has inherent worth… dignity… value… as GOD CRAFTED every life in the womb and gives life meaning because every life is a reflection of HIMSELF. People are the glory of God! THIS IS A MESSAGE THAT EVERY CHILD, TEEN & ADULT MUST HEAR! THIS IS A MESSAGE GIVEN TO US AT CHRISTMAS. THIS IS A MESSAGE OF SIMPLY JESUS!