Der Vasken’s Sermon on April 18, 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“I’m trying to process what happened. It could have been me. I could have been the one on the ground never to see my twin boys again.”

These were the emotional words of Indiana FedEx employee named Timothy Bouillat, who shared how the recent tragic shooting unfolded in front of him just three days ago, in front of the facility where he worked, leaving eight people dead and the lives of eight families forever changed.

“I’m trying to process what happened. It could have been me. I could have been the one on the ground never to see my twin boys again.” He was referring to the heart-wrenching tragedy that occurred last Thursday night. It was a very sad event, which many of us heard about the next morning. We threw our hands up into the air and said, “Here we go again.”

This was only one of several mass shootings that occurred in the last couple of weeks in our country alone. It’s like we have grown accustomed to them or numb to them. Certainly as we reflect upon these sad realities—these tragedies going on in the world around us—it’s difficult to watch how people can treat each other. There are so many thoughts that come to mind when we hear about tragedies like this.

What came to my mind was this. We approach life with certain expectations.

• We expect that people will act a certain way.
• We expect that people can and will treat each other with decency.
• We expect that we will be safe when we walk out of our homes.
• We expect that people would be compassionate and kind and that they, too, place value on life and family.

But there are moments when we experience and encounter the contrary and those moments impact on our lives. In today’s Bible passage, Jesus shows us what it means to have a compassionate heart and what it means to know the value of life.

At some point, tragedy finds people. For each of us, the tragedy will be different and yet the pain will be the same. It will leave us with tears in our eyes and pain in our hearts. They are called tragedies because they turn our lives upside down and tear our lives apart. Hopefully, we will never see a tragedy similar to the one I just shared or like the one that the widow suffered in today’s Bible story.

Tragedy finds us:

• Someone close to us—someone we love dearly—may die unexpectedly.
• Our tragedy might come in the form of a broken relationship.
• A body might be broken down by disease.
• There are broken hopes and dreams.
• It might be that our tragedy takes the form of severe financial loss, and on and on we can list possible tragedies.

Tragedies are often a part of life and families are often left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives as they grieve and try to start over. We are in the Church Season of the Resurrection. It is the time when we remember the empty Tomb of Christ as the symbol of His victory over evil.

The terrible events of this past week challenge us to take inventory of our faith and ask ourselves:

• What do we do when tragedy strikes?
• Do we try to find someone to blame?
• Or do we let our compassion and faith lead us forward?

It takes faith to see God standing with us when eight lives and eight families are brought to their knees. It takes faith to leap into action when our expectations fall short. It takes faith to see God when our world goes dark. It takes faith to have a compassionate heart when the world around us acts heartless.

Tragedies like what happened last week may happen again and will find their way to uproot lives again and again. That’s why Jesus breathed life back into the widow’s son in today’s reading. That is why He was born in Bethlehem and that is why the Tomb was found empty on Easter morning. So that His Love brings Hope into the world, may God comfort those whose lives ended al too soon and those whose lives will be forever affected by last week’s tragedy.

• What do we do when tragedy strikes?
• Do we try to find someone to blame?
• Or do we let our compassion and faith lead us forward?

Something for all of us to think about.

Amen.

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