Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 29, 2018
Psalm 23, Romans 8:37-39 and Acts 16:16-34
When I heard about the horrific bus crash close to Humboldt, Saskatchewan where initially fourteen people lost their lives it first hit me as just another horrible accident. Then, as the days started rolling by, something else kicked in that caught me by surprise. I was utterly amazed at how deeply this accident affected the whole of Canada, across the country and then even wider into the United States. I slowly learned that the whole ice hockey community, along with the entire nation of Canada was in mourning. This is due in part because so many Canadian families can identify with the bus trip, either personally or as having their kids or family members regularly travelling on buses. Whether it be for hockey or any number of other sports teams, travel via bus is common so it hit close to home for many people. But it also speaks to how hockey is weaved into the fabric of Canada. This struck me as something beautiful. We are all united in the deeply-felt grief due to the loss of the Bronco hockey players, their head-coach as well as the woman who worked among them as a trainer. It’s truly amazing how a very large country can become like a small family when tragedies like this happen.
When anyone dies, it is sad. But there is a deeper sadness when young people die, Each one of them basically leaves parents behind and that is simply not the natural order of life and loss. Life will never be the same for the mothers and fathers, friends, brothers or sisters of these young people. People are broken and there are so many pieces to pick up. On Sunday evening after the accident, Carina and I watched the vigil that was held in Humboldt. Our eyes became teary too, our throats had a lump as we watched it all unfold in that arena.
But, as Father Raymond de Souza wrote in the National Post, there is a grace-side to what happened: “Through eyes blurry with tears the entire nation has watched the people of Humboldt respond to the deaths of thosemen. In the face of immense suffering and loss, the way they have responded has been a lesson in grace.”
“…the people of Humboldt got it right,” Father de Souza continues. “It was beautiful in a painful way, and taught us that pain and beauty sometimes go together. You can see a clear example of that in paintings of Jesus in the agony of crucifixion.
The team chaplain, Pastor Sean Brandow contributed at the service too. He had come upon the scene shortly after the crash. He began with, “All I saw was darkness, fear and confusion.” And later when he was at the hospital with the relatives of the living and those deceased, he spoke of receiving thousands of texts and he explained how he really needed them. “We all need to hear these things,” he said, “that support …Families need to hear that people support you, that people love you and are praying.”
“But it was so dark, I really needed to hear from God too,” pastor Brandowcontinued. “Four words from God were bigger than a thousand words from any human being. Those words ….I am with you”
These familiar words from Psalm 23 that often bring us comfort, “I fear no evil because You are with me,”were what brought him relief. And that answer is the only answer that Christians have at such tragic heart-breaking moments: “Yes, God is with me.”
At the conclusion of his powerful preaching, through his own tears, Pastor Brandow spoke of the scars on the body of Jesus, risen from the dead.
“It’s clear in the scriptures that God has scars. Even after the resurrection, the scars remain. Scars come from wounds. And the Christian puts their faith in the God who counts Himself among the wounded, the suffering, the dead.
“The wounds are still fresh in Humboldt. The scars will come in time”, Pastor Brandow told the folks at the vigil. Try to remember that God’s scars are a definite indication how much God identifies with our human crises.”
In the book of Acts that we read from this morning, there was a different kind of human crisis. In this crisis, Paul and Silas learned how to deal with a very tough situation. The two of them had been imprisoned and were tied in chains. They were nevertheless still singing hymns in the middle of the night appearing not in the least bit concerned. All of a sudden there was an earthquake that shook their chains loose as well as all the doors of the prison. The jailer who was put in charge woke up and wanted to kill himself with his own sword because he thought thathe’d allowed the prisoners to escape. But Paul and Silas were calm in the face of the earthquake and did not try to escape. Through their faith, they found a way of keeping their cool. The crisis did not throw them off.
Fast forward to 2018 as we think of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. Do we get lost in despair? Or can we gather ourselves and listen to what Paul says to reassure us in Romans chapter 8. “Be calm in the faith that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?”
This assurance comes from an Easter faith. We know that the end of everything on earth, is only the beginning of much more in eternity. This might eventually heal the wounds that have been so deeply inflicted on so many people in such crises. Not just the wounds of the Humboldt Broncos but those from so many other events we hear of throughout the world. Let’s also remember our Easter faith in the trials and tribulations and sometimes even tragedies that we face in our own lives right here, right now.
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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