I've heard several horrible stories of deaths this past week which leave one awed, humbled and all too aware of the kind of world we live in. First, a classmate of mine who lives in South Carolina, was on the way to a funeral with his wife and her family when they were hit by a semi-truck. His mother-in-law died instantly, and his brother-in-law is still in a coma. He and his wife appear to have sustained only minor injuries, but that does not make for much comfort. Then, last night I heard from another friend who pastors a small congregation in the northwest, about a family who pulled off the side of the freeway for a moment. One of the children dropped something out of the window, and the oldest boy, in gradeschool, said, "I'll get it," and opened the side door to hop out. A moment later he was gone, hit by a swerving truck.
Even recounting this story swells within me tremendous amounts of pain and fear. In selfishness I think first of my own children and my desire to protect them. In charity my heart goes out to this family and their pastor who tries to comfort them. Where to begin? What to say?
This alone demonstrates the vast importance of learning the faith we have believed in the here and now, when things seem at their best. What we believe, teach and confess is that no matter how good things appear, at any moment the chaotic sins of the world can bring destruction and death upon us. Such times will try and shake us, even to the very roots of what we have believed. How could God let that happen? Why wasn't I more prepared?
The faith which we are given by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus is one which can and will stand against all the powers of sin, death and the devil, even in the face of tragedies like these. But tragedies like these are not the best time for evangelism. Evangelism happens now, building the foundation of our faith so that when the storms come, the rock of Christ holds true for us. If we neglect this need of ours to feed and sustain our faith with the pure Word and Sacraments of our Lord, we will find that the storms come and we rest on nothing but sand.
There are no platitudes to take away these tragedies that this week touched your lives through my own connection to them. But I share them with you for a very real purpose. I share them so that you and I and all will once again be equipped to say, "God's own child, I gladly say it. I am baptized into Christ. Death you cannot end my gladness, I'm a child of paradise."
Fellow Christians who die in auto wrecks, whether elderly or children, all have the same, singular, one, real hope - that in Jesus death is defeated. No matter what our ending, or how our bodies finally meet decay, we each have the same, confessed, true, absolute hope - that in Jesus death is defeated.
This is the promise of baptism. This is what the shattering of the gates of death by Jesus mean. Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation. Learn what you believe and why you believe, because you never know the hour of testing.
Remember the point of it all: He is risen, and with him we shall rise. Alleluia!
the Lord is with you, as always, in your Baptism,