Church Write-Up: Tragedy and Humility

I went to the Wednesday Advent service at the Missouri Synod Lutheran church.  Here are some items.  I will also be linking to previous posts that I have written.

A.  The pastor opened his message with a personal anecdote.  He talked about a woman to whom he was engaged back when he was a young vicar, and the woman was seeing another man.  They broke off the engagement.  His friends told him that they saw that coming, and he asked them why they did not warn him.  One of them replied, “We would have, but we figured that you wouldn’t have listened anyway.”  The pastor agreed with them: he probably wouldn’t have listened.  I could identify with that.

B.  The pastor related that to how we do not listen to how nature testifies to God, and how we should listen.  Some of this message continued themes from last week’s Advent message, which I wrote about here.  The pastor reiterated that creation’s beauty testifies to God, but that creation, like humanity, is under God’s judgment due to the Fall of Adam and Eve.  The pastor cited earthquakes as an example of the latter.  I wrestled some with that in last week’s post, expressing doubt that God created fault lines after Adam and Eve sinned.  Since then, I reread an old post of mine that has gotten some traction on my WordPress blog: Does “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” Agree with John Walton?  The ancient Christian work, “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan,” maintains that God, before the Fall, created aspects of the world in anticipation of the Fall.  In short, God created the world knowing that Adam and Eve would sin and leave the Garden.  Could God have created fault lines before the Fall, knowing that the Fall would occur?

C.  This week, the pastor focused more on natural disasters.  One of our texts was Psalm 107, which mentions four crises from which God delivers people after they call on him.  This particular Psalm intrigued me when I read it about five years ago.  Here is my post about it.  Our text focused on the fourth crisis, which is in vv 23-32.  Some savvy business people are going out to the sea to do business.  They think they know all about seafaring, for that is their profession.  But then God sends a ferocious sea-storm, which humbles them.  They call out to God, and God stills the waters.

The pastor was talking about how nature humbles us.  He mentioned natural disasters, perhaps implying that God uses them to humble us.  But he also noted that two-feet of snow is enough to shut down Portland.

I was reminded of when Kirk Cameron said that God sent recent hurricanes to teach us humility.  It was a controversial statement.  I can understand why people found it so revolting.  People have lost lives, livelihoods, and homes due to natural disasters.  We should consider that to be a horrible thing, and maybe even try to help.  (And, for the record, this particular Lutheran church has donated to victims of natural disasters.)  I do not want to sit comfortably in my room, pontificating that God had a purpose behind taking away people’s homes.  That would be horrible, if that happened to me.  And I do not want God to say, “You think that is a good thing?  Well, here you go!”

Yet, there are so many things in life that are humbling: natural disasters, diseases, etc.  I humbly ask God to protect me from them.  Yet, there are godly people who have suffered them, or even died from them.

I read a book last year, Randy Alcorn’s lengthy If God Is Good.  I wrote a post about it, but I did not mention in that post a part of the book that has particularly stuck with me.  Alcorn said that the times when he is on his back due to his diabetes keep him from getting a huge ego.  There are plenty of things in life that can keep us from being overly egocentric.

I hope that this post does not come across as insensitive.  I want to value humility.  Yet, I would not want to tell people that their suffering is somehow good, since that seems to go against the empathy and compassion that we are supposed to have.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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One Response to Church Write-Up: Tragedy and Humility

  1. Pingback: Church Write-Up: Comfort Plus Service, the Fall (Again), He Brought Himself, Abundance | James' Ramblings

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