A Communion Meditation
Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 7, 2002

Scripture:

      Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

      Some purveyors of a particular distortion of Christianity will sell people a satanic lie masquerading as Godís truth. This lie is that if you just have enough faith, bad things wonít happen to you. This lie is that faith and righteousness are rewarded on this earth with a comfortable and carefree life. This rosy view of reality holds that bad things only happen to bad people. Well, it ainít so. Yet the idea that it is so means that people like Rabbi Kushner have to write books with titles like When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and millions of us have to read them. This diabolical idea causes people to cry out in anguish when they or their loved ones become extremely ill: "Why is God doing this to me?!" Itís a question that canít be answered, because, as we say in the law biz, it assumes facts not in evidence. It assumes that God causes the suffering that we endure. And thatís a lie perpetrated by the devil to destroy the faith of good and decent people who know of no God other than the false idol of bad religion that buys our faith with blessings and punishes our all too human failures with misfortunes.

      And Iím here to tell you from personal experience as well as from theological reflection that that isnít the way it works. Bad things do happen to good people. When they do, it doesnít mean the person didnít have enough faith. It doesnít mean she didnít pray hard enough. It doesnít mean he was a terrible sinner. All it means is that she and he were human beings. My friends, we are terribly frail creatures. We are vulnerable to so many things. So many things can go wrong with our bodies. Life is a precious gift, but it is also a very fragile gift. Sometimes it breaks even though there was nothing we could have done to prevent it from breaking. Illness, pain, suffering, and premature death are part of the human condition. They come with our creaturliness. They inhere in the fact that we are not God. Perfection and invulnerability belong to God; they do not belong to us.

      So if despite our faith and our best efforts to live righteous lives God does not prevent bad things from happening to us, what good is God to us? What use do we have for a God who doesnít stop children from getting leukemia, young men from getting schizophrenia, or wonderful, bright, loving, giving, caring women in the prime of their lives from getting terminal breast cancer? As you know, this isnít an academic question for me these days. And I think maybe it was divine Providence that the lectionary Gospel lesson for this Sunday included those wonderful verses that I just read from Matthew. Let me read you these familiar lines in the more familiar and, I think, more beautiful King James version:

      Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

      For you see, God doesnít promise a life without pain. God promises instead to be with us, to support us, to guide us, hold us, love us, and keep us ultimately safe in and through the bad times, the illnesses, and even our deaths. This last week I have felt as never before the peace for my soul that can come from coming to God in Jesus Christ. Rest for our souls really is there to be had. It doesnít make the pain stop, but it does make the pain bearable. It doesnít cure the illness, but it allows us to bear what the illness brings with hope, courage, and peace. It allows us to say in the midst of our agony, as Francie said to me last Friday after a particularly rough day: "Through it all I felt that I was being held in Godís hands and that I was safe there." To which the only thing I can add is: Amen.