“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
The explosions this week at the Boston Marathon have shaken our hearts and minds. We have been awakened again to the terrible reality that evil lurks here and there in this world. It’s a tragedy. It’s scary.
As Christians we respond as best we can through prayer and compassionate action. Pray for peace. Give blood. Pray for justice. Thank a police officer for serving. Pray for forgiveness. Donate to the Red Cross. Pray for guidance as you grieve. Donate clothes, gifts cards, and food to the Salvation Army. Pray.
The question that skulks through our minds tends to be, “Where is God?” It’s a difficult question. But, I think that Psalm 46 gives us a clue. The psalm says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” When the earth shakes or when we are rocked by tragedy look and see where help comes from. You might see God.
After the Newtown tragedy and again this week a quote from Mr. Rogers has gone viral. The quote says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother always said to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Just after the bombs went off this week, the helpers jumped into action. Some of these helpers had just run 26 miles. At the end of most marathons you see people either collapsing at the finishing line or walking gingerly to embrace loved ones after the race. Yet, by the grace of God these marathoners caught their breath and began tearing back the barrier between the road and the crowd to get to the wounded. Police and first responders leapt into action to direct the effort. The terror of this act cannot be undone, but the response of the people in Boston is a light in great darkness.
God has not promised us a life free of trouble and suffering. But, God has promised to be a present help in trouble. Paul writes in Romans 8, “In everything God works for good.” God is in the reaction — inspiring courage, rousing generosity and grieving with us. God is our refuge and strength. As the bombs went off Monday, God’s was the first heart to break.
“God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.” ~Psalm 46
I was recently at a funeral for the elderly relative of a dear friend. It was a beautiful service – Scripture readings and songs from the woman’s great-grandchildren, glorious choral and congregational music, and moving eulogies by both her daughters. Lois Jeane had been a lifelong Christian who brought her husband to faith and raised four children in a loving, creative, God-honoring home.
When the pastor rose to give the sermon, he compared Lois Jeane to several characters in the Bible. Like Sarah, she had shown great faith. Like Esther, she had tremendous courage. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she had been obedient to God. But, he said, the Biblical characters that Lois Jeane most resembled were three ordinary women – the three who were first at the tomb on that surprising Sunday after his death.
You see, these three – whom Mark names as Salome, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James – were going to anoint Jesus’ body. In the midst of their grief and bewilderment, they went to the market in preparation for the next morning. They bought spices and rose early the next day. As they ascended the steep path, they expected to find things as they had been left, with a heavy stone blocking their way. They even wondered aloud how they would move it to perform the task to which they had assigned themselves. But out of sheer love, they journeyed on, faithful to the calling to anoint the body of Christ.
And Lois Jeane? Her pastor marveled at how often Lois Jeane had spoken words of encouragement to him. Her friends told him stories of her devotion to the Body – her own money, time, and energy freely given to those around her. The positivity she brought to every interaction. And all in the service of strengthening her family, her fellow worshippers, and church leadership. She did these things out of an abundance of love for the Church, without any expectation for a return.
What would it look like to be like Lois Jeane? To be like Salome and the two Marys? How might we anoint the Body of Christ with our own love and encouragement?
Several weeks ago we planted some tomato plants in our backyard.
We’ve been told that squirrels and birds love to hijack the fruit. So, Nancy also planted two bird feeders among the tomato plants. So far, the feeders and our Golden Retrievers have kept the squirrels and birds away from the tomatoes.
One squirrel has figured out how to tip one of the feeders over and spill its seed everywhere. Now, there are all kinds of weeds growing in the flower bed near the feeders and tomato plants. I mentioned them to Nancy (code for “You have some weeds to pull.”). She then told me that those are plants growing from the seeds that fell out of the bird feeders and took shallow root. Using no code whatsoever, she told me that they won’t be hard for me to pull.
Though we intended the seeds to give life to the birds, the thieving squirrel made sure they fell to the ground. Now, given time, those seeds born of stolen seed will produce even more seed. Sometimes, what we intend for one thing becomes something else better than we could have ever imagined.
When the bombs went off in Boston this past week, two things happened. First, a lot of people were killed or maimed for life, not to mention those who will live with emotional scars that may never heal.
The second thing that happened was even more spectacular. The bombs blew loose the seeds of heroes, scattering them all throughout the crowd in thousands of different directions. Total strangers rushed to tend to the wounded and carry them to safety and medical care.
We saw a graphic picture of a man being carried to safety in a wheel chair by two total strangers. Both of his legs had been amputated beneath the knees.
One of the rescuers was pushing the wheel chair with one hand and clamping several inches of the victim’s severed femoral artery in his other bare hand so the victim wouldn’t bleed to death. The line of people wanting to donate their own life’s blood was out the door and all the way around the block.
This is something that cowardly terrorists have never figured out. They can blow up hundreds of people. What happens next they can never control nor can they conquer.
The moment the bomb goes off the seeds of heroes are scattered, instantaneously taking root by the thousands. The history the terrorist intended is rewritten, not in the blood they spilled but in the life blood others give. What one intends for evil always spawns something of greater good.
After Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and then got caught red-handed, they just knew that Joseph would have them enslaved, tortured or killed as payback. Except, Joseph knew the seed-to-hero scenario God always works. “‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’” (Genesis 50:20).
Our redemption story is literally written in the blood someone spilled with evil intent that God only used to fertilize the seeds of heroes.