August 4, 2013: Why do bad things happen?

Posted on : Aug 1st, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

If you attended worship at the UCC’s General Synod in Long Beach, you heard Rev. Martin Copenhaver say, “In the four gospels, Jesus asks 307 (three hundred seven) questions.  He is asked 183 questions.  Of all those questions, Jesus only directly answers three of the questions asked of him.”

Obviously, a lot of people had a lot of questions they wanted to ask Jesus!  And few of them got their questions answered directly.

When I was a young kid I, like all kids, asked a lot of questions.  A LOT of questions!  Asking questions is one of the ways we learn.  Kids usually start asking the “why” question at about 3-4 years old.  “Why is grass green?” “Why can’t I….?”  “Why do I have to do this?”  For parents, that constant “why” question can drive you crazy!

As I grew older, I started asking harder questions of my parents.  Questions that involved moral choices and spiritual questions.  When my dad had reached his limit on my “why?” questions or when I’d ask a really difficult question, he’d answer, “Well, maybe yes and maybe no.”  For example, when I’d ask, “Did Jesus really walk on water?”  He’d say, “Well maybe yes and maybe no.”  That drove me crazy!!!  I wanted a “yes” or “no” answer.

It’s taken me a long time to accept the reality that there are no easy answers to life’s hard questions.  Spoiler alert!  That’s one of the reasons I believe Jesus answered so few of the questions put to him.  There were no easy answers to the very hard questions people asked him.

In May when I prepared this August’s sermon series on “Hard questions.  No Easy Answers,” I never dreamed it would become so personal for me.  Six weeks ago my older brother was in a very serious auto accident and he has traumatic brain injury.  Though he is making good progress, with traumatic brain injury recovery is a painfully slow process.  To see a once vital, athletic, strong man struggling to put one foot in front of the other as he “learns” to walk again is sobering.   And of course the first question that comes to mind is, “Why did this happen?”  The “what if” questions are endless.  And of course there is always the “Why would God allow such a thing to happen?” question.

In 1978, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  It became a best seller.  In the book he asked the question, “WHY?”  Why would a just and loving God let bad things happen to good people?  There are a million books on the market that ask the same question, but Rabbi Kushner’s book was different.  It was his own wrestling with the reality of that question in his own personal life.  At the age of three his beloved son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease.  His son would only live until his early teens.  Rabbi Kushner was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God, Why?

The same is true for Jesus.  In one of the most difficult times in Jesus’ life, he cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This Sunday we’ll begin our August worship series, “Hard questions.  No Easy Answers,” looking at the “Why” question.  Why does God allow bad things to happen?  Can we believe in a just and loving God when such things happen?  Don’t expect an easy answer to such a hard questions, but hopefully we can begin to create a context for understanding this most difficult question of faith.




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Selected verses from the 27th Chapter of Matthew

From the cross, Jesus cries out , “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jewish people?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ 14But Jesus gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly suspicious.

24 When Pilate saw that he could not convince the crowds to release Jesus, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; – see to it yourselves.’ 25Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ 26So Pilate released the notorious murderer, Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

35And when they had crucified Jesus (nailed him to the cross), they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jewish people.’

38Two bandits were crucified with Jesus, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided Jesus, shaking their heads 40and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Messiah, come down from the cross.’ 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Jesus, saying, 42‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. If he is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Child.” ’ 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted Jesus in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

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