Dear Church Family,
As we consider the tragic events that have taken place this last week with tornados eastern Kansas, recently in Sedalia and most noticeably of all in Joplin, Missouri, no doubt many of you are asking “Why?”. For that answer I would direct you to this link from our church’s website: Why?
The question I’d like to deal with isn’t asking “Why?” it is asking “How?” Specifically, how are we to respond in worship in light of calamity, tragedy, death and destruction? This Sunday as we gather together for worship what will our corporate response to God in light of these tragedies look like?
I want to share with you a portion of our service for this upcoming Sunday in hope that we might begin, even now, to prepare our hearts so that when we come together our understanding of what we are doing in worship will be better grasped, and through that understanding we might be even more united so that we might make the praises of God truly glorious! (Psalm 66:2)
After our time of Fellowship we will hear Job 1:13-22 read aloud:
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.A horrible tragedy (tragedy upon tragedy!) befell Job. In an instant, all that he had was gone. His most prized possessions—his very children—were killed in a tornado. What was Job’s response? “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job didn’t sin in anger, nor did he charge God with wrong. He worshiped God. He recognized who God is and who Job is. God is sovereign, Job is not.
So we, like Job, will sing of God’s sovereignty and goodness in both good times and bad. We will do so together singing Matt and Beth Redman’s song “Blessed Be Your Name”. May our hearts burst with true humility as we cry out to God:
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
The next song we will sing is “All Things New” by Horatius Bonar and Red Mountain Music. This song gives us hope that God will not linger forever, and not only that, He will one day renew all things. So while it is right that we exalt God by confessing “You give and take away” we must also look for the day when He will make all things new. One day there will be no more suffering, no more towns devastated by tornadoes. Through the words of this song we corporately confess our hope and trust in the promises of God.
We will then hear Luke 13:1-5 read aloud:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."(For a deeper look into this passage I highly recommend this sermon from John Piper)
May we be fully aware of the depth of our sin and the infinite shortness of our shortcomings. May we recognize that our crimes have been committed against an Infinite, Holy, and Righteous God. May we recognize the infinite punishment that ought to be justly applied to us. May we, even now, turn from our sins and look to the cross of Christ and cry “Be merciful to me!” And together we will turn to the cross and say those very words, praying as we sing Randall Goodgame's song “Be Merciful to Me”.
But we don’t cry out without hope. God truly is merciful and shows us Christ dying in our place, which causes us to rejoice even in the midst of our pain and suffering. And we will be reminded of this as we hear God’s Word in Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Only through Christ do we have this peace; a peace that allows us to rejoice in God even when our hearts are breaking, a peace that allows us to rejoice even in the midst of suffering. And so we will confess that no matter what comes—when God gives or when He takes away—through Christ we can and will sing “It is Well with My Soul”.
I pray that this foretaste of our gathered worship for this upcoming Sunday has whetted your appetite. I pray that you come expectantly, longing to hear from God, longing to rejoice alongside fellow believers, longing to magnify Christ in all things. I love you and I look forward to making much of God together with you this Sunday.