With so many top news stories these days, we have a lot to keep up with.
The list is long: an upcoming national election, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and fires; protests and riots, increased crime that has cost the lives of many, even the lives of innocent children, and a pandemic holding us down as if we are hostages.
The news, in many ways, is becoming so unhealthy to watch that we can almost call it toxic.
Politics by its nature is a tough business, but when both sides engage in intentional hyped-up rhetoric, it all can get downright mean.
This country was founded on the debate, but how do such dragged-out disputes that seem to be political ping-pong games help the ordinary citizen?
In the past few months, nature is giving us one-two punches. Storms and hot and steamy summer are natural occurrences with no one to blame. Severe weather is something we just have to contend with.
In my book, I want to say that dealing with the virus is enough on our plates. To see people also coping with the loss of homes and livelihoods by recent hurricanes is heartbreaking.
People have the right to freedom of speech and can protest. In this freedom, can we be asking, “Are there ways to speak freely other than street protests that are often turning to acts of violence?”
It’s the saddest thing to hear of a child who is the victim of a gunshot. Even looking at the person who has done the shooting, we see how that person has a lost life in prison. No one wins. We grieve, and in part of that grief, we get angry because it’s all so senseless.
As Christians, we are to be empathetic. We are to try our best to understand what other people are going through. As much as we can, we are to try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
Christians are empathetic because we are compassionate as our Lord is full of love and care.
So, as followers of our Lord, we do our best to identify with others, and in that framework, we reach out to those people who are in need and help as much as we can.
But, if we are going to be real, and going back to how we started with talking about current news, we have to say that a lot of hard situations are happening in our world.
As we try our best to be empathetic, we can also be feeling overwhelmed with what we are to be feeling and thinking.
In the news, we are hearing about things that bring anxiety, depression, fear, stress, panic, or sorrow.
If we are truly empathetic, we want to be right there experiencing it with the sufferers first-hand; but in many of these situations, it can be so frustrating because no matter what we do-these situations are still out of control.
Having empathy can be very difficult under certain circumstances. In a way, it’s right that we should be distraught, angry, and sad by certain things that we are seeing in these times.
And in these feelings, we are motivated to act to make things better.
But, in another way, these emotions and thoughts can lead us to have knee-jerk reactions. We want to quickly solve the problems and jump on band-wagons that do not provide logical and solid solutions.
The news has a lot for us that we don’t want to hear, but it’s the world that we are living in, so we must hear and bear it.
For Christians, we are people who are not of the world, but we do have to live in the world. It’s often said that Christians are to have a newspaper under one arm and a Bible under the other arm.
I have talked about newspapers and Bibles before, and a person said, “Pastor, I have an app on my phone for news and another app for a Bible. Do they work for what you are saying?”
Whatever works for you. Go for it!
Although the news is difficult to watch as we see tragedies, injustices, and disasters that cause suffering unfold before our eyes, we are to know what is happening, so we can bring God’s love and care to these places.
For a minute can you imagine an old-time scale where you need to balance two sides? Try to see the news of today of the world on one side and love and care on the other side.
In my imagination, I am seeing the things of today’s world weighing down its side with the other side of love and care up in the air.
I want to see that love and care is outweighing the hard things, but it is seeming that hard stuff has more weight on the world than love and care.
If you are thinking this way as I am, we are not the only ones about how hard news is heavier than love and care.
In our readings today, we hear how Jeremiah is thinking about the hard news that is so prevalent in his days that it’s seeming that God’s Word that he has been called to proclaim is having little effect.
Jeremiah is discouraged, for people are still not listening to him, and these people are even reproaching him for believing in God.
It’s at this time of feeling despair that God comes to him and says that His Word will have its effects, but it will take some time, and how in this difficult time, he needs to stick to it.
In the Gospel reading, we see how Peter didn’t like Jesus’ news about his upcoming death on the cross.
Jesus’ reaction to Peter is quite strong. He calls Peter, Satan, and he tells Peter to get behind him. This rebuke must have put Peter in his place, but it also must have hurt Peter.
Jesus’ rebuke is strong, but he is talking about the salvation of the world.
Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world is the most important event of history.
By Jesus’ suffering and death, he took the punishment for our sins. When he rose on the third day, he defeated sin, eternal death, and Satan, so all people can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Talking about empathy, we can feel for Peter as he was feeling sad about the news that his Lord but also friend was going to die soon.
Of course, the death of Jesus was not the news that he wanted to hear, but it was necessary.
Jesus said that Peter had on his mind the things of the world and not on the things of God.
We need to always know that Christians are justice fighters, advocates for the oppressed, caregivers for the sick, and helpers for those in need.
We have a call to go out into the world and tell others of the love of God in Christ. If we remember the campfire song, “They Will Know that We are Christians by Our Love,” we are to “simply” to go into our lives and share the love of God in Christ.
I use the word “simply” very intentionally because the message of salvation is simple.
The Gospel is not meant to be complicated. By itself, it has the power to save anyone who believes in the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Peter not only wanted Jesus to stay alive for his own personal feelings, but he also was hoping Jesus was going to be a type of political leader who would save people from Roman oppression.
Jesus did come to save the world, but he was not going to save it as many people were hoping for.
We see, on that first Palm Sunday, how people praised Jesus as a king, but when they saw that he was not the king as they wanted, they turned against him, and they jumped on the bandwagon to crucify him.
Jesus is concerned about our welfare here as we walk in our lives, but first, he wants to know that we are saved for eternal life.
In the certainty of our salvation, we can live free with confidence that Christ is taking care of all things-from our salvation to all of our needs.
Having the kingdom of God for eternity, we bring as much of that perfect kingdom to this world as we can.
Because sin will always be here, we will never see a perfect world. But that does not mean that we don’t try to make it better.
We have to know that whenever we speak and act in the name of Jesus, we are giving the best that there is to this tired old fallen world.
Something is always happening for the good wherever we go in the name of Christ.
With talking about the news of our times, I want to be careful here to be clear about how the church is involved in reacting to world events.
The church does not attach itself to any political party or movements. Our central purpose, as St Paul says, is to preach Christ crucified. And as John the Baptist preached, “Look! The Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.”
We do encourage to love others as God has loved us in Christ. When it comes to causes and issues, the church does have its stances.
But we have to say that we are not here to make everything right. The world is broken, but the church’s purpose is not to fix it.
We are here to bring the Gospel message and love others as God has loved us in Christ.
Here, we speak carefully because when we say the church is apolitical, it does not mean that its members are not political.
Christians are to be good citizens-good citizens vote. When people vote, they are voting for some candidate of some political party.
So, as the church is apolitical, its members do belong to different political parties of whatever choice that they want to make for themselves.
Lutherans are especially big on living out our faiths in our vocations-our everyday lives.
To be clear again, as an individual you can belong to a political party and be part of a movement.
But if I can say this also again about “keeping it simple,” we do our best by simply bringing God’s love in Christ to our families, our schools, our neighbors, and our places of work.
Just sharing God’s Word with others has an effect that is stronger and better than any political party or any movement that the world has to offer.
Everything seems to become political-education, sports, and even this pandemic-but the church is not ever to become a part of worldly things.
We have our agenda to spread the Gospel and share the love of God in Christ.
Although God can work through any means necessary, we, as the church, are bound by working through only Word and Sacrament.
As the world is always seeming to be on the verge of chaos, we can get lost and confused about the complexities of the issues.
But we keep it all simple by always first seeking God’s kingdom. Then, we humbly bring this kingdom to the world, as we pray; “On earth, as it is in heaven,” so this world may know what we know-salvation in Christ and the love and grace of God in Christ.
The world has some hard news that we don’t want to hear, but let’s hear it, so we can bring the Good News of Christ to it.