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Sermon for The Third Sunday in Lent - Year C
I Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
"The Sense of The Senseless"


READING:   I Corinthians 10:1-13 and Luke 13:1-9
SERMON :  "The Sense of The Senseless"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le03se.y-c 418

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

  
It seems from today's gospel reading that people haven't changed 
all that much over the two thousand years since the death and 
resurrection of Jesus.

People, then, as now, avidly discussed the latest news of death 
and destruction and tried to understand its significance.

We do not know precisely what tragedy some people told Jesus 
about on the day that our reading originally took place,
all we know for sure is that several Galileans were killed in or 
near the temple by Pilate's soldiers as they prepared to offer 
their sacrifices to God.

Nor do we have a record of the tragedy involving the collapse of 
the tower in Siloam that killed eighteen people.

All we know for sure is that then, as now, tragedy struck and 
people died and still other people talked about it, and tried to 
make sense of it.

Whenever bad things happen,
    whenever senseless things happen,
	the human instinct is to try to make sense of it.

Why did my father die now --
Why was our son taken from us,
Why did God allow that mother of three children die of cancer?

We all want to make sense of the senseless,
     we want to know why certain things occur,
	and that is often a good thing.

For example - when buildings collapse, like the tower in Siloam 
collapsed, investigations are done to find out why so that, just 
perhaps, such a tragedy will not occur again.

Generally speaking wanting to know why is not a bad thing,
     but sometimes the urge to figure out why leads us astray,
	it leads us into assigning blame and guilt to people
	that do not deserve it,
		or who at least do not deserve it any more or less
		than do we...

I recall a young man who was killed outside a bar in 1976.
Neil was the brother of a friend of mine.
He was out with his girl friend for a quiet evening. 
He was minding his own business when he got assaulted.

People, talking about the incident, were heard to say things 
like:  "Well, if he hadn't gone to the bar he wouldn't have been 
killed." and "People who drink deserve everything that happens to 
them."

Some people, in their quest to understand, reveal that they have 
all the compassion and sensitivity of a dead toad.

The implication was that Neil somehow deserved what had happened 
to him - just as in today's reading, the implication is made by 
the people talking about the Galileans killed by Pilate that  
they somehow they deserved to die.

Why else would Jesus have replied 
"Because those Galileans were killed in that way, do you 
think it proves that they were worse sinners than all other 
Galileans?  and What about the eighteen people killed when 
the tower fell on them in Siloam?  Do you suppose this proves 
that they were worse than all the other people living in 
Jerusalem.  No indeed, and I tell you that if you do not turn 
from your sins, you will all die as they did."

There is a way to make sense of the senseless,
but that way my friends is not to blame the victims by suggesting
that somehow God brought about their death, or whatever other 
mishap has occurred to them as some kind of punishment.

By that standard no one should be alive today, for all have 
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Jesus suggests that we make sense of the senseless,
not by condemning the victims of tragedy for their complicity in 
their own deaths - 
    but by considering our own mortality, and our own sinfulness,
	and working to produce fruit befitting our salvation 
	    before we are called to account for our lives 
	    before his eternal throne.

The message of Jesus, like the prophets before him,
    is that all of us deserve to experience the wrath of God,
	but that God does not seek our deaths,
	nor does he delight in our suffering,
    rather he calls us to live by his gracious law,
	and by the power of his Spirit
	and the wisdom of his living word,
so that we might be able to stand before him at the end as one 
whose work in this life has been well and truly done.

As the parable of the unfruitful fig tree in verses 6-10 of 
today's reading tells us 
-- God expects us to be fruitful for him,
	He expects us to produce that which is pleasing to him, lest 
we be cut down and perish like those we think	have somehow 
deserved their deaths.
	
That same parable, my friends, tells us that God is in the 
business of giving us second, third, and indeed even fourth 
chances,
	chances to get it straight,
	and do that which is pleasing to him,
but that, when all is said and done,
there is a time of reckoning that we must all face.

That same parable also tells us that God actively labours over us 
to make us fruitful before making his final judgement.

We are not only given time to get things straight, 
we are also given the care and attention that a good gardener 
gives to his plants - the raking and the fertilizer and the 
nourishment that anything requires if it is to be fruitful.

I can not tell you why some people die at certain times and 
others do not.  I can not make sense of the senseless in this 
fashion.  But I can and do tell you what Jesus had to say about 
our making judgements about those who have died, and judgements 
about God's intention in allowing those deaths to occur as they 
did.

I can tell you that all of us are in need of the gracious 
forgiveness of God, that all of us deserve to die as much as 
anyone else deserves to die, 
	to die without hope of redemption,
	without hope of seeing the face of God smiling at us
	and the hand of God giving us the eternal crown of victory
	and life evermore in his kingdom.

And I can tell you that it is not God's purpose or intention that 
this should happen to us - but rather, through the labour of his 
Son - Jesus - he works to make us all that we should be in this 
life, and that he gives us every chance we need.

God gives us time to repent on one hand 
and what we need to become productive for him on the other.  

Jesus calls us to make sense of the senseless by giving our own 
lives meaning before we are called home to God.

Do our lives count for anything?
Are we fruitful for God?
Do we make a difference?
Or are our branches bare,
and our limbs naked?

There is an old story told about little Johnny 

Johnny was going home one day past his grandfather's house 
with a couple of his chums.  As they passed the house they 
spied the old gentleman out on his sun porch in his 
rocking chair with a big black book on his lap reading 
rather intently.

"What's your grandfather doing", asked one of Johnny's 
friends.

"Oh - grandpa - he's cramming for the finals", Johnny 
replied.

Our Lord and Saviour is patient with us my friends.  He 
cultivates us and tends to us, even when we ignore  him, even 
when we fail to trust him, even when we produce nothing for him.

But not forever can we put off the day when we are called home 
for the finals - home to account for what we have done and what 
we have not done.  

The question is not 
whether or not other people's death make sense,
whether or not they have deserved their deaths at the time 
	and in the manner that they came to them,
but whether or not our lives make sense,
whether or not they are fruitful for God
	and we are ready to meet our maker.


PASTORAL PRAYER
Let us Pray -- Dear God, we hear today pray for all people and 
their families who are caught up in senseless tragedies - those 
who are killed on the roads and highways,  those who fall victim 
to diseases and crippling conditions that severely affect their 
lives, those afflicted by fires and floods and other 
catastrophes.  Help us O God, to be especially sensitive as to 
what we can do to help those who are afflicted, and help us too O 
God to consider our mortality, our own fragility, and to use the 
time you have given us to take action to make sure that our lives 
today are as we and you truly want them to be.... DEAR GOD HEAR 
OUR PRAYER....
 

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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