A Word About Suffering (Luke 4:31-44)

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When I was growing up I got very good at a skill that many youngsters these days have probably never had to practice. I became an expert at finding new uses for broken toys. What can I say, in a family with four rambunctious children toys didn’t survive long. In a family with four rambunctious children and little money, toys were a luxury. If they broke you were stuck with them until your next birthday or Christmas, and then you could likely only replace one or two. So at a very early age I began to find ways of playing new games with old broken toys. And it worked … sort of. It kept me happy … kind of. OK, let’s be honest. I could distract myself for a while, but I didn’t want my friends to see them because I knew they were broken, and I wished they weren’t.

Dear friends in Christ, allow me to let you in on one of the worst kept secrets out there. Our world is broken. And not just a little broken … it is broken bad! All of it. Every part of it. With every new earthquake or flood or drought we see that nature is broken. With each passing question period and every new scandal we see that politics is broken. With each new argument, slander, gossip, hurt or misunderstanding we see how our every relationship is broken. With each new ache and pain, each new problem, diagnosis, or disease we see that our own life is broken.

Oh sure, we can learn to make due with our broken world and broken lives. We can even tell ourselves that it isn’t all that bad, but in the end there we’re not really fooling anyone are we? We can even find new uses for all that brokenness – like telling ourselves that what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. Playing the game that suffering strengthens character, or that it makes us more sympathetic to others … but in the end we still know that broken lives just aren’t right.

So what then are we to do with the problem of a broken world? What about suffering? Some people will use this very question as a means to either deny God, or hate God, or both. We know who you are God! You’re the one whose come to destroy us, aren’t you. Others don’t want to go that far, but aren’t sure how their suffering is supposed to make them love Him any better. How do you answer the problem of suffering in your own life? Better yet, how does God answer the problem of a broken world?

He answers it, with a word. In whatever form that brokenness appears, whatever venue that suffering comes, His answer is a Word. A strong word, a clear word, a word of authority! You see, a world that is broken by sin is an affront to the one who created it to be perfect and holy. A world that suffers at the hands of sickness, grief and pain, a world that is tormented by the wiles and works of the evil foe – cuts the very heart of our gracious and loving Father.

What is God’s word about this broken world? Simply this – It was not always so. It is not meant to be so even now. It will not be so forever! He is not responsible for it, but He will respond to it. That is why Jesus came into our broken world … to begin the process of healing it. Wherever Jesus went, there the brokenness of this world and this life was rebuked, and wholeness was restored. And all with a Word.

With His word of authority Jesus astonished the crowds. “What is this word?” they asked. Nowhere else in this broken world had they heard such good news! Not just another hollow explanation for why there are hurts and griefs in this world – He gave them The Answer. He gave them Himself! This Word made flesh has come to restore all flesh, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captive and oppressed. He is the Sun of righteousness risen with healing in His wings.

With His word of rebuke He silenced the demon and sent it packing. It is a testament to how broken the world has become if demons sit happily in church, and run freely from one life to another wreaking harm and mischief seemingly at will. So brazen, this demon tries to best Jesus with a word. 34 Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” In ancient magic and sorcery it was believed that to know the real name of something, that one true world which perfectly described it, was to have power over it. But Jesus commands this demon’s silence. Not another word will it speak. For the Word that created all flesh has come to free that flesh from its foul bonds. And so rebuked, it flees powerless, it’s damage undone as if it had never been.

With a word of rebuke Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever. Rebuking a fever? What kind of a strange word is this? But why not. For everything that is broken is rightly rebuked by the one who sets all things right again. Fever, spirit, sickness, injury … it matters not to Him what is broken. If it has marred His beloved creation it must be set right again. And not just in some grand sweeping gesture either. For each person and each creature’s hurts will receive His personal attention. First this woman, then any (and every) one who is brought to Him for healing. All through the night he puts his hand one each and speaks His Word to them alone.

Are you promising dear pastor, that my hurts, my ills, my suffering and brokenness will too be healed? That Jesus will set right all that is wrong in my life too? Yes, He will dear friends, but not because I promise … but because He has promised. The answer is not “IF.” It has never been If – but when. All that is broken will be made whole again, you have it on the very best of authority. But when … well that is a matter that again, must be left to His authority. Will it be when I want, how I want it, in the way I have deemed best? Did everyone in Capernaum get everything they wanted?

No. But they got Christ, and with Him the promise of the Kingdom. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is on a mission to bring his healing power of salvation to a whole world broken by sin. In the preaching of the Good News, in the Water of Holy Baptism, in the heavenly banquet of His own Holy Table you have not only His Word, but His gracious healing as well. And in those gifts there is so much that has been healed in your life that you will never even know. Yet, even so, there are some hurts that will not be made right until He returns in glory. But hear this Word. Return He will, For this Sun will rise again, and when He comes all that is broken will become whole. For He is the Holy One of God, the very Son of God and when He speaks healing His will be the final Word.

AMEN.

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About kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.
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