Monday, December 17, 2012

A Land Full of Blood

  …and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.  Ezekiel 9.9b (KJV)

America the beautiful is a land is full of blood.  Nothing could be more accurately stated about our world these days.  In the last few days we have certainly all watched with horror and astonishment as the body count at Sandy Hook Elementary School was announced and the rising questions begged answers…why?  

What question is it which lurks in the shadows about all this carnage?  What do people think is going on with all that?  Two and a half millennia ago a Jewish prophet by the name of Ezekiel gave us the answer:

…and the land is full of blood…  Ezekiel 9:9

In short, folks look around and surmise God is not in the equation; with all that happens, how could He be?  And, if He ever was in the equation, He bailed on us, and He isn’t watching; and He doesn’t care.

With all the communication gadgets to help us “stay in touch” – email, TV, express mail, telephones on every hip – the most common feeling in the universe is I’m alone.  I’ve been forsaken.  The Lord – whoever He is, and even if He’s out there – He doesn’t know my name.  I had better watch out for me, because I am all there is!

If this describes you (or describes you at times), or if you know some folks who feel like this, and you’d really like some good news to share with them – allow me to share four important words in two short phrases with you that make all the difference in the world.  The first two words:

God Knows

God knows what’s going on.  Scripture tells us He really does…

…but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him                                          with whom we have to do.  Hebrews 4.13b

Here is a chilling thought:  As soon as the first blood was spilled, God knew it; and He still knows it.  Do you remember the incident?  Cain got jealous of His brother’s acceptance by God.  Cain plotted and then beat his brother into the ground.  God came looking for Cain,

And he said, What hast thou done?  the voice of thy brother’s blood                  crieth unto me from the ground.  Genesis 4:10 (KJV)

The land has been filled with blood ever since Cain.  And how does God know?  The reason is God created man (Genesis 1).  The Creator knows His creation.  God’s creative purpose was life.  He put it in the blood:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood:   Leviticus 17:11a (KJV)

Here is another chilling thought; we have all filled the land with blood. 

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23

Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, 1 Peter 3:18a

It was our sin that nailed Christ to the cross.  And that is where the other two words come in – God Knows…and…

God Cares

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.   John 3:16-17

The Bible talks of so many ways in which God cares for us.  However, the chief proof of that is the cross; Jesus died for us.  He said that was His reason for coming to earth.  On his last night on earth Jesus gathered the disciples together for a meal…

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  Matthew 26:26-28

My blood!  Jesus wasted no words communicating with perfect accuracy what He was going to do – die for us!  How “right” is that? 

Simon Peter, fisherman and friend of Jesus, said later about that death:

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you
inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.  He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  1 Peter 1:18-19 (TNLT)

All of what Jesus did in going to the cross was for us – so we could be forgiven, even we who live in a land filled with innocent blood.  What does that mean, and what should I do about it?  These are two great questions that lead to the answer for a sacrifice so big.

What Does It Mean?

It means that when we celebrate the Lord’s Table it is for us,                                                                                            but it couldn’t be provided by us.

My blood is type B-negative.  That is good…sometimes!  As the fastest clotting blood, it helps when you get a bad cut.  As a kid I rarely needed a band aid.  On the other hand, my blood can get over-zealous and clots can block off needed circulation.  That happened a couple of times; the result?  Blood clots in my lung and six days in the hospital with my legs in the air waiting for the clots to dissolve! 

One of the hardest things for me to accept about my blood is that I can’t share it with anybody.  My donation days are over because of the medication I take to thin out the ooze which slogs through my veins.  Nobody wants a transfusion with MY blood.

Quite different is the blood of Jesus Christ.  For any of us who will accept what His blood accomplished at Calvary – the sin is washed away!  That’s what it means!

tragedy or the joy of advent?

Today, the third Sunday in Advent, is traditionally called "Gaudette Sunday."  It is supposed to be a day of rejoicing even within the midst of the austerity of repentance and preparation for receiving Christ.  Joy in the midst of sorrow!  How can this be?  How can we do anything but weep in the light of such great loss – such innocent victims?

In a message from our Bishop, Larry Goodpaster[1], the day after the shootings at Sandy Hook, he pointed to another tragedy.  After Jesus was born, all the children two years old and under around Bethlehem were killed by a ruthless King Herod.  It was a senseless act of terror and control in a world dominated by darkness.

But in the darkness, God preserved the light – the light of the world; Jesus would bring peace that passes understanding.  This is what speaks of joy in the midst of tragedy.

Bottom Line

None of us can make sense of the actions of one young man’s madness and the hurt it caused and is causing.  All we can say is what the Apostle Paul knew about what God was doing:

where sin increased, grace abounded all the more  Romans 5:20b

That simply means what we need to know about this land full of violence and tragedy, this land full of blood…God has it covered, and there is grace which is greater than our sin.

For now we weep with our human family in a small town in Connecticut, and we weep for ourselves because we are all part of this land full of blood.  But may we not forget that we also rejoice in God’s forgiving grace and love, and may we pray and work towards that day of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!
A prayer

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)

Once again, we are reminded about the meaning of this
bleak midwinter we call Advent. For God did not come to
create a greeting card industry, nor so we could string lights
on houses and trees. God did not become one of us so we
might have office parties and give people things they don't
really need. God was not born so songs could be written
and sermons preached.

God came for such mornings as this, after the long night
of anguished tossing and turning, with visions of horror
dancing in our heads. God came to walk with us as we
wander the streets of our hearts asking, 'how? why? when?'

God came to huddle with terrified children in closets where
school supplies are stored, and to give teachers the strength
not to show their worst fears. God came to cradle the wounded
and the dying, so they would know they were not abandoned
in that loneliest of moments.

God came to give the first responders the courage to walk
into the unspeakable, willing to put themselves between danger
and little children. God came to gather the parents and
grandparents up into the divine lap of comfort and hope,
even as their arms would no longer be able to embrace
their child. God came to have that most compassionate
heart broken as many times as ours are, to weep with
us even when we have run out of tears, to stand next
to us with the same look of horror and disbelief.

God came for mornings such as this, with the same
haggard face, with the same questions, with the same
anger, with the same sense of loss and hopelessness,
but with deep wells of grace from which we can drink,
with compassion which will never end, with comforting
arms which will not grow weary, with hope which
stretches from everlasting to everlasting.
God came, and is still with us.[2]

[2] © 2012 Thom M. Shuman

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