Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Why? Making Sense of God's Will: God and Suffering

John 11:32-37
Why does God allow deep furrows of pain, of suffering to dig into the otherwise clean fields (there are no weeds in this furrow) of our lives?

Are there any seeds we can bring to sow into the deep furrows of our own  suffering .. into the suffering of others ... into the suffering, on occasion, of God’s church .. into the suffering of the world... ?

... some said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Jn 11:37

These words are spoken by the crowd at the tomb of Lazarus - he was a close friend of Jesus and he had been very ill. Mary and Martha, his sisters had sent for Jesus but on hearing about His friend's illness, Jesus had waited 3 days before setting out for Lazarus's home. When He arrives, Lazarus is dead and buried. Martha meets Jesus on the road and says to Jesus: "LORD if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  A little further on, Mary meets Jesus and says:  "LORD if you had been here, my brother would not have died." The crowd see Jesus has arrived and say: "Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

They are all in the same way chained to the idea that if Jesus is our friend ... He can and should prevent struggling.

Once again, I am aware that I tread on very holy ground here ... because who of us here has not said/felt/believed"Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" ... Could the LORD not have kept my child from dying, my wife from suffering, my father from losing his job ... you can add your own. on Remembrance Sunday: "Could God not have kept that bullet, that bomb, that IED ... from killing my child, husband, wife, father. Why did so many have to die?

 "Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" - this is Holy ground because we enter into the mystery here of how God relates to His creation and to humans created in His image.

Somewhere in the world right now ... an innocent child is suffering something unimaginable at the hands of an older and stronger human being ... and God is watching that act, seeing the tears, hearing the cries for help ... and doing nothing about it. He's powerful enough to do something ... that's what almighty means ... He can break every chain of suffering ... but He doesn't.

And let's be clear about this: It is NOT God's will that these things should happen ... not everything that happens to you, to me and in this world is God's will. Not every furrow that has been ploughed into your back, dug into your memory is God's will. Earlier this week I heard a story on BBC radio of a child getting some sort of skin transplant some sort of "miraculous" skin transplant because, years ago he was born with and has had to live with skin and these were the words they used on the radio that is "as delicate as a butterfly's wing" and they described the agony that is every day life for this child. Let no one say that is God's will for that child.

"Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

Many people refuse to believe in God because they say that they cannot believe in someone who has the strength and power to stop suffering but doesn't, He chooses instead to watch. I think what they are saying is that they would believe in a God who used His power to stop innocent pain and suffering rather than doing nothing about it.

Let me make it absolutely clear: of our own free will we choose to believe in the God who is powerful enough to prevent and stop all suffering ... but doesn't. We choose to believe in an almighty God who even this moment is watching and allowing some unspeakable horror to continue.

WHY do we so choose? 

The answer to that question ... your answer to that question ... ultimately determines whether the people you know who do not yet believe will come and sit next to you in this church to find out why you do believe.

There are deep furrows of suffering in many lives ... ploughmarks of pain deeply embedded in physical and emotional scars that some of us manage to keep hidden ... sometimes we can't keep them hidden. The Psalmist puts it like this: Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long (Ps 129:3) and sometimes we remain chained to those events

What seed can we sow into the furrow ... do we have anything better to offer than the wine mixed with gall that our Lord was offered as He suffered, according to Matthew (Matthew 27:33-34); do we perhaps offer what Mark says was given to our Lord (Mark 15:23) ... he records that they offered him wine mixed with myrrh. I looked up myrrh and it is described this way: Myrrh has a rich, smoky, balsamic aroma that is purifying, restorative, revitalizing, and uplifting.

What purifying, restorative, revitalizing, uplifting seed can we sow into the furrows of suffering in our own lives, in the lives of others, into the suffering we see in God's church when God's people fight with each other on the battlefields of world war or in the seats of church meetings, what seeds can we sow into the pain and suffering of the world? And if we find those seeds, that oil, can it also break the chains that keep these things in our memories so that it seems that even if the pain is soothed, healed even, we can't move without taking the remembrance of pain and hurt and suffering and anger and bitterness and unforgiveness with us wherever we go for the rest of our days?

What seed can we sow into the furrow that can in anyway make a difference? You want an answer don't you (I did too by this stage of my preparation)?

Play this video while you read the last part of my sermon

The Name ..... The Name .... The Name ..... The Name .... the name of Jesus .... THAT IS WHAT WE OFFER ... the name of Jesus because Jesus is the name that makes the wounded whole. Jesus is the name that breaks every chain. Whatever your current pain ... there is power in the name of Jesus, whatever furrow has gone through you, is going through you ... there is power in the name of Jesus; whatever deep furrow you are in and you can't see over it or an end to it ... there is power in the name of Jesus; whatever chains of remembrance, of anger, of addiction, of fear ... whatever chains bind you ... there is power in the name of Jesus. If you are in, or if you ever find yourself in a situation of horror, remember to say the name of Jesus, because there is power in the name of Jesus.

I invite you to pray into your own, someone else's, your church's, your world's suffering right now. Perhaps even pray into the suffering of that child who has been abused even while we have been sitting here talking about suffering, or that child with the butterfly wing skin ... please pray. How do I pray, you might ask, just pray the Name of Jesus. If you feel moved to come forward for whatever reason ... maybe your own pain, maybe your own chains, perhaps to pray for someone else's pain or chains, or our church, or our nation ... please do come forward and I'll simply pray the name of Jesus into your life and (with James 5:13-16) in mind, anoint you with oil.

So let us continue to pray The Name Of Jesus.

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