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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  Matthew 5:4

“They encourage themselves in an evil matter….They say who will see them?…….But God shall shoot them with an arrow…so He will make them stumble over their own tongue”  Psalm 64:5,7

We find ourselves pondering mysteries beyond our capabilities to solve.  Jesus Christ knew that there would be misery brought about by tragedy.  He knew that unforeseen and unfortunate things were going to happen to good people.  He knew people were going to find themselves in a place where they would mourn.  Where we would be gripped with an overwhelming sense of loss and despair.  On the surface, blessed seems so out of place for someone in those circumstances.  For me the only thing that comes to mind is the sense that those who mourn, would have loved and cared in the first place.  One who is so cold that tragic loss does not phase them because they do not feel any love, any remorse for loss, is in such a fearful place every day.  But those who know the blessing of giving and receiving love and therefore feel the gut wrenching loss when the object of that loss is taken from them; Our Heavenly Father will come to them and comfort them.  There will be time of blessing.

And it may seem that evil wins.  That in the pulling of a trigger, the setting off of an explosion or other horrendous act, that evil has triumphed.  And an all too human is response is to,  instead of looking to our human, fallen nature which spawns such evil in the first place, we often turn our blame to God; as if He was the one that carried out the horrific act.  Yet, for me, faith must be the activity that I dwell on and cling to, as I am at a loss to understand the why of such senseless acts of hatred and violence.

Finally though, from years of study in history and years of living experience with such tragic events, whether it be someone of world inflicting evil, like a Hitler or a lone disturbed individual who impacts a community, their evil does not last.  Yes the impacts carry on, but their evil is thwarted.  They may seem to have the upper hand, but their supremacy is fleeting.  History has shown over and over, that good, the good that comes from God triumphs in the end.  He will enact His Justice.  How do we know?  Jesus Christ came to earth.  While on earth He was tempted and overcame those temptations.  This earth and the evil in it, did all it could do to stop Him; thinking that they had triumphed when Jesus died.  But no earthly or other evil power can restrain the Power of Almighty God.  Jesus Christ rose on the third day, shattering the forces of evil for all time.  And here is the most important aspect of that act, Jesus Christ did not do that just for Him.  Jesus Christ’s act was to allow all of us to overcome the evil power of this world by following Him.  We will overcome.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we are in mourning today and we confess that we need Your Blessing.  We confess that we do not understand the workings of we humans in this world and tend to lash out at anger at You for the evil we do.  Forgive us Dear Father and restore and renew our faith.  Strengthen us and give us a resilient spirit, that we will respond to hate with love; that we will respond to divisiveness with togetherness; to separation with inclusion, that we will respond to despair with hope.  That through our faith in You we will strive to live a life of victory over evil.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Luke 11:12

“….for without me, you can do nothing…..” John 15:5

” ….and have put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge and according to the image of Him who created him…. Colossians 3:10

I get the sense as I read the bible (again no claim to scholarship)  that Jesus choses His words carefully.  While Jesus teaches in parables that for the people of the time were hard to understand, and if it were not for the explanations captured in the gospel by his disciples, equally as difficult for us today, He did not seem prone to exaggeration or arbitrary vagueness.  Once we understand the context of his message, we understand that we are “to be born again”, or how in faith and obedience, we need to “become as a child”.  So when Jesus uses the word evil, I don’t think he is speaking metaphorically or with a sense of ambiguity.

I get it, you may think, Christ was talking to the dreaded Pharisees or, even worse yet, that despicable, Herod.  Well not exactly.  This passage comes within the context of Jesus teaching.  In Luke, it says that He had been answering a question brought by His disciples about how to pray.  He had taught them the “Lord’s Prayer” (in quotation marks because He did not call it that in the gospels) and went on to add about asking Our Heavenly Father for things (this is the wonderfully comforting passage about seek and you will find).  So in the Luke passage, He is talking to some His closest here on earth and he calls them………….EVIL   My reaction to that in  more contemporary language (although my kids would advise me this is not very contemporary anymore) is “Wow, what a bummer.”

For if Jesus Christ says this about those earthly men closest to him, what does that mean about me?  Exactly!  Well maybe I can feel better if I try to rethink it.  So maybe what He was really trying to do was say was Our Heavenly Father is perfect (I get that) and that I’m not so perfect (again, no argument) so every once in awhile I do some evil, but  I’m still basically and okay person (whew, I can go with that).  But, and it is a huge, unmistakable, unequivocal, but; that is not what Jesus said.  Jesus  did not mince words, did not describe just what we do, but who we are, and He purposely used the word……evil (ugh).  Hey wait just a darn minute!, I respond.  Before I was saved, I didn’t beat my dog, or anyone in my family.  I gave to charities like the American Cancer Society.  I did not tell lies (well only some little white ones).  Jesus says we may do some things which can be classified as “good” but fundamentally we are evil.  Left on our own and to our own desires, we will always have a spirit that is selfish, stubborn, unwilling to help, quick to hurt, quick to do damage to others.  Oh at times we may, actually do something nice, but that will be because we want something in return, or only to someone we know and not to a stranger or because we love them today, until they wrong us and tomorrow we will spitefully deal with them when they hurt us.

Evil, heavy sigh.  This is a downer, Jesus.  The devil would have you think so.  In fact he wants us to think we are so evil that we should not even attempt to have anything to do with a Perfect God.  Who are you to ask from God?  He does not hear the likes of you!  You are a sinner!  He hates you!  Be scared to go to Him.  He will destroy you!  Lies from the father of lies.

What am I to do?  Jesus answers, why do You think I came, to judge you?  To call you evil, then destroy you?  No!  I know full well who you are, and in spite of that I Love You and have come to SAVE YOU.  You are Evil, I am not.  You sin, I have not.  Your sins deserve judgement and death……I WILL PAY THAT PRICE.  Do you want to be good?  Abide in me.  You want to be a new creation?  Believe in me, the One sent from The Father.  Do you want to overcome your evil self, be a branch on My Vine.  I will keep you.  I will change you.  I did not die, so that evil would have power over Me, I rose again to show My Power over evil for all who will come to me.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You, that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to earth for us.  We know that He always spoke the truth.  We humbly testify that His truth is often hard for us to hear.  We pray dear Father, that you would show us that we are poor in spirit so that we can feel the blessings of comfort in Your Spirit that Jesus promised.  Let it be that I honestly see and confess my sins, knowing that in Christ’s Sacrifice, they are forgiven.  Help me, Dear Father to always abide in Jesus Christ, so that I can become the new creation that will live in a more perfect love and find that I can become truly good in You.  That in my transformed self, I will live a life of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  I pray in the name of the one who is truly good, Jesus Christ.

Amen

We often hear a phrase “Hear the good news…………” followed by Jesus Christ is risen or Jesus Christ came to save our souls.  You may also hear that the good news is proclaimed in the bible.  If you have read parts of the bible you may think to yourself; this is no longer news.  I’ve heard or read it before.

I would ask you think about what is news based upon what we see and read in today’s media.  If you think about it; there is nothing really new.  Natural disasters have happened before, wars have happened, people have done unspeakable things to each other, fraud etc.  Even good news, people have won the lottery, or done brave things; people have been elected again etc.  What is new perhaps is that it is happening to a new place or someone different though alas sometimes the news is that it is happening in the same place over again.

So how does the bible and what it says about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit be new?  It is new in the context that we have changed.  That our circumstances change daily; sometimes in small ways, sometimes in very large ways.  While God is consistent; the same loving God today, as yesterday and tomorrow.  Our ability to see His consistent Love, Grace and Mercy in our lives is what is new and news worthy.

Thus, read the bible with fresh eyes.  Pray with the expectation of new

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