It took a long time for Sunday to come this week…
I was ready for Sunday on Monday…
when we first heard the news from Boston…
I was ready for Sunday on Tuesday…
when the postal service intercepted the letter laced with ricin…
I was ready for Sunday on Wednesday….
when we learned about the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas…
I was ready for Sunday on Thursday…
when after a gunfight the first suspect in the bombings was killed
I was ready for Sunday on Friday…
when Boston – the city I love dearly and once called home – was in lockdown
And I was definitely ready for Sunday on Saturday…
when to top off the week, there was an earthquake in China and an avalanche in Colorado.
And so now, let’s take a breath, Sunday’s here.
We’ve had a horrible week of news.
The blessing of Sunday – the blessing of Sabbath –
the blessing of taking some time apart to come together here –
is that here and now we can take a collective breath and just listen to God’s Word.
It is God’s Word for this day.
It is God’s Word for this week.
And what better Word to meditate upon than the 23rd psalm.
We’ve sung it already.
But let’s turn to page 617 in our pew Bibles and pray the psalm together once more…
1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
Scholars disagree about exactly when the 23rd psalm was written.
Clearly it was written in a time of conflict,
but the question is, “which one”?
In fact as one scholar says, over time,
“basically, every conflict of either Israel or Judah,
inside the Bible or outside of the Bible,
from David in the 10th century BCE to the Maccabees in the second century BCE,
has been suggested by somebody.”
We don’t know for sure when it was written,
but we do know it was written in a time such as this.
It was written for a time such as this.
The psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil…”
The psalmist does not deny that there is evil in the world.
But the psalmist says the response to evil is – no fear.
not because we have bigger and better weapons…
not because we have the best trained police and FBI agents…
not because we have the latest technology for catching the bad guys…
In response to evil, there is no fear
simply because you God are with me…
it is you God – and you alone – which comforts me.
We proclaim that in the midst of evil;
in the midst of tragedy;
in the midst of suffering;
in the midst of disaster;
God is here.
Some say evil, tragedy, suffering, and disaster prove the absence of God;
we say paradoxically, that they are actually signs of the presence of God..
God shows up precisely when evil overpowers us.
God shows up when tragedy overwhelms us.
God shows up when suffering overcomes us.
God shows up when disaster overtakes us.
How do we know this?
We know it because
God shows up on a cross.
There is no better symbol of evil, tragedy, suffering, and disaster, than the cross.
On that one Good Friday 2000 years ago, evil, tragedy, suffering, and disaster converged at the cross.
But after three days – three long days — Sunday came.
New life came.
After this week when it feels like we’ve been lying constantly at the foot of the cross,
we have been so ready for Sabbath – for Sunday to come.
But as Alice Walker once wrote,
“Anybody can observe the Sabbath,
but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”
Anybody can profess faith on a Sunday,
but making it holy takes Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday…
So let’s also take a moment to recognize and give thanks
that there were so many people who helped us see that there was indeed holiness through the week;
these are the ones who helped us to see God in the midst of our darkness;
Thank God for the holiness on Monday…
when firefighters and policemen rushed toward the site of the bombs rather than away;
when runners having completed 26.2 miles of a race ran an extra two miles so they could donate blood for those who needed it
when thousands of local residents offered their homes as places to stay to stranded runners and restaurants fed them for free
Thank God for the holiness on Tuesday…
when the museums in Boston offered free admission for those who needed a respite from the chaos;
and Yankee fans sang the Red Sox’s favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” in the 3rd inning
Thank God for the holiness on Wednesday…
when Lutheran K-9 Comfort dogs were deployed to Boston hospitals;
and the holiness on Thursday…
when donations for the victims reached over $7 million
Throughout the week, in the middle of all the chaos,
holiness has been present – God has been present – In Boston, in West, Texas, in China and in Colorado.
The last verse of Psalm 23 says,
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”
This week we were made all too aware that “Evil happens.”
We came to know that God is present.
May we trust in the promise that goodness and mercy will follow.