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Second Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2006

Second Sunday of Easter              Trinity Lutheran Church
23 April 2006                                   Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

[Special Note to the reader:  Two members of our small community were brutally murdered last week.  They were not members of Trinity.  However, this horrific crime has shocked us all.  Thus the texts and the sermon.  Please pray for those who mourn Wayne and Charmon Stock.  Their bodies were laid to rest Saturday, April 22, 2006. "Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on" Revelation 14.]

Job 1:13-22 / Romans 8:28

It’s time to have a serious talk.  For these are serious times.  I suppose there are many Sundays when you’re not paying attention or you haven’t come to listen.  But today I think you are prepared to hear to God’s Word.  The events of the past week have helped us slow down, take a deep breath, and come to church today with a determination like we haven’t had since the events of 9-11.  We want God’s help.  We want Him to strengthen our faith in Him all the more.  And not just ours but all those who mourn the death of our friends Wayne and Charmon.   

We’re still in a kind of shock.  Emotions roller coastering.  We’ve gone to the services.  But the killer’s still on the loose.  The murder weapon hasn’t been found.  Hardly any clues.  And the big question is:  “Why?”  “Why would this happen to Wayne and Charmon?”  “Why didn’t God stop this?”  “Isn’t God in charge of everything?”  “He’s sovereign isn’t He?  So why?”  “Why?”

I don’t know why.  And God hasn’t given us an answer.  But we do have His promise that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  Did you hear that?  I’d better say it again:  “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  And I tell you that this “in all things” applies most especially to what happened in the upstairs bedroom last week at the Stock house. We are called once again to believe this.  To trust.  Even when all our reason and all our senses say that just can’t be true.

“Easier said than done Reverend!”  Yes.  I know.  It’s not easy to believe that “in all things” God works good for you.  Trusting that when everything’s going our way is easy.  But when two wonderful people are brutally murdered, well . . . 

These are the times when the rubber of our Christian faith hits the road.  Hard.  It’s like a crash course.     

That’s precisely the way it was for Job, “The greatest man among all the people of the East” (1:3). Had seven sons and three daughters.  A respected businessman and farmer.  Quite well to do.  Owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys.  Employed hundreds of workers to take care of his livestock.  He trusted God.  Believed in the promise of the Savior who was to come.  He prayed for his children and offered the burnt offering every morning depending on God’s forgiveness for all sin, especially the sins his children might do while . . . well, you know, partying.  They were always doing that.  And you know what happens at parties.  Just ask the community at Duke University.  Ask the parents of Natalie Holloway who partied in Aruba.  Read Tom Wolfe’s book I Am Charlotte Simmons.     

Job and his family live in the country.  A “safe” secluded place.  Tucked away in the rural, lazy land of Uz.  Where you don’t need to lock your doors at night.  Where you trust your neighbors with anything and everything.  The donkeys graze peacefully in the pastures.  The oxen do their plowing.  And then in the midst of this pastoral scene:  tragedy strikes!  Arabians attack.  Steal Job’s donkeys and oxen.  Every last one.  And while they’re at it, these Arabians brutally behead all the employees except for one who escapes to tell Job the terrible news.

And then more dreadful information.  All of his sheep and the shepherds have all been burned to a crisp by a wacky lightning storm!  Only one messenger escaped the fires to tell about it.    

Then another horrific report.  Gangs of Chaldeans have stolen all his camels and have viciously massacred more of his employees. 

Can it get any worse?  Yes.  More tragedy.  This time:  his children.  At a blow out bash of wine and fine food tornadic winds whip up.  The oldest brother’s party house is destroyed.  And all ten of Job’s children are crushed in the rubble!

Job is stunned.  Staggered.  In one day he’s been targeted and singled out by Arabians and Chaldeans.  By a lightening storm and a tornado.  He’s lost everything, humanly speaking.  His entire wealth.  He has to bury all ten of his children at once.  What did he do to deserve any of this?  Nothing.  But it’s happened. His safe haven has been violated.  Desecrated.

What will he do?  What will he say?  His wife gives him some advice:  “Curse God and die you silly old man!” (Job 2:9).  And then there are the words of the apostle:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Job doesn’t ask why.  His wife and his neighbors do.  Instead, he gets up.  Tears his robe.  Shaves his head.  He’s devastated.  He’s deeply hurt.  Immense sadness.    

Then he does what most people find unthinkable.  So irrational.  HE WORSHIPS GOD!  “Then he fell to the ground in worship.”  He will trust in the Lord no matter what.  Listen again to his faith:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 

May the name of the Lord be praised?  Are you kidding me?  But Job can say this because he knows that in all things God works good.  Wayne and Charmon believed this.  So can we.  Even in these most heartrending and faith challenging circumstances.  Our friends have been brutally taken away from us.  It hurts.  We ache.  We’re horrified.  However there remains the “in all things” promise.  And there are the worship words of Job:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 

You too can praise the Lord’s Name today.  Because of another good:  Good, Good, Very Good Friday!  There God did something!  There He acted.  For Wayne and Charmon.  For you, me, and the world.  There on the Cross God dropped dead!  Stone cold dead. 
For us all.   

And in His Calvary Very Good Good Friday Death, God Jesus embraced all the gunk, rot, and filth of every sin and every sinner.  All that’s wrong with the cosmos He took in His Body.  And He answered for it.  Took care of it.  Holds it all . . . reconciled . . . in His nail scarred Hands. Including this monstrous sin of murder committed against the Stock family.

“Father, forgive them.”  That was Christ’s Good Friday prayer.  And all is forgiven because God Jesus acted.  Because He did something about this broken world.  That’s why He said:  “It is finished.”  And then He died. 

Jesus did ask the “Why” question on the Cross for Job, the Stocks and all of us.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  He gets no answer from His Father.  But He doesn’t get down from the Cross.  He stays.  He suffers in the silence.  He trusts that, in His grizzly crucifixion and gory death, even when His Father doesn’t answer His question, good will come from it.  And so the other prayer:  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” 

“Where are you God?” He’s in His Son hanging on the Cross. 

“Why won’t you do anything God?”  He did.  He reconciled the world to Himself in His Son’s once for all time and for all people death. 

That’s good.  Really good.  For in Christ crucified and risen all things have been made new.  The old has passed away.  Behold the new has come.  God brings life through death.  Victory through loss. 

This we are given to trust today.  Using God’s promise of working all things for our good against our reason and senses.

As we trust the Lord’s promise today we are free to pray.  Pray for the police and investigators.  That the Lord will continue to use them as His hands, eyes, and ears to catch the murderer.  Free to pray for the judge and jury.  For they are the Lord’s instruments to carry out a trial and hand out appropriate punishment. 

Free to pray for the murderer.  For giving himself up, for his confession, and for his repentance. 

Free to use our hands and mouth for the benefit of the Stock family.  Meals, cinnamon rolls, flowers, a six pack, a tractor, plow, planter, or a combine.  And the prayers.  For you are the Lord’s instruments to help them any way that you can. 

And in the midst of all the tears, memories, and helping hands, Jesus is there.  As your Savior.  In all things doing what He’s promised.  Working things out for our good. 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”   

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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