…And I Feel Fine

Scripture:  Revelation 7:9-17;  Delivered:  April 21, 2013;  Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Lamb and The Good Shepherd

This was one of those weeks that felt like the bad news would never come to an end.

The horror began this past Monday when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Acts of terrorism are always difficult to process—An enemy bent on killing is frightening enough, but when they hide in the shadows, attack from behind while we are looking away and then disappear into the shadows again we feel paralyzed by it…

But we were not the only people to suffer through acts of terrorism on Monday—In Iraq, just before a day of voting was set to begin, bombs ripped throughout different sites all around the nation, killing at least 55.

Then came an earthquake Tuesday rattling both sides of the Iran and Pakistan border, killing 80 and leaving countless homeless.

And of course, the terrorism was continuing as news broke that letters were discovered in Washington, DC that contained the deadly poison Ricin.

Wednesday was equally horrifying when a fire at a fertilizer plant caused an explosion that leveled a large portion of the town and claimed the lives of at least 14, the majority of whom were firemen.

And then Thursday night, realizing they had been identified, the Boston Marathon Bombers engage in a deadly crime spree, robbing a convenience store, killing a police officer, and hijacking a car all before engaging in a lengthy gun battle with bombs and homemade grenades on a suburban street.

Of course, that led into Friday and the  nation being gripped in anxiety  as Boston,  one of our major cities,  is put on lockdown for the better part of a day so that a massive manhunt could be  made.

And if you thought you could breathe easy on the last day of the week, guess again… because on Saturday an earthquake rattled China, killing close to 200 and injuring thousands.

There is a song by the band REM that came out back when I was a kid…

I’ve been singing that song to myself a lot this week—well, not the whole thing… the words of the song come at you in rapid-fire succession and are sang by a guy who is known for not being very clear when he sings, so I’ve only ever been able to pick up a few of the words… but that chorus just keeps playing over and over again in my head:

 It’s the end of the world as we know it…
It’s the end of the world as we know it…
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

Every single day this week I would sit down to look at the news and there would be some new terrible story to tug at my heart and cause me to shake my head and wonder what’s going on in this world.

And then I’d think:

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

But then I’d look a little closer and suddenly I’d see something that made me realize that even with all the disaster going on around us, maybe this world isn’t as lost as I thought.

In the videos from Boston, while everyone was still stunned by the explosion and trying to figure out what had happened, you can see police and EMTs and firefighters begin to rush toward the rising smoke.

And then, something truly extraordinary happened—everyone just started to help each other.  Strangers in the crowd began to soothe and comfort and seek help for those nearby who were hurt.  People rushed to donate blood when they heard that most of the victims had suffered a lot of blood loss.

Everyone turned to one another and offered help.

It’s the end of the world as we know…
and I feel fine…

As someone who grew up in the Kanawha Valley surrounded by all sorts of chemical plants, and with my family still living in the area, I don’t take the report of a chemical plant exploding lightly.  When I was a kid we’d have shelter-in-place drills so that we’d know what to do if a disaster occurred at one of the plants.

It startles me.

It worries me.

Maybe next time the explosion will be near my family.

And so, even as reports of the West, Texas disaster was shoved to the back burner in the news in favor of the more dramatic manhunt in Boston, I couldn’t help but look at the pictures of the town that had been leveled by the explosion of the fertilizer plant.

Housed decimated.  A rest home destroyed.  Fire trucks crushed.  Smoke  always rising in the background.

 It’s the end of the world as we know it.

But then I looked closer and saw a man, wounded when the explosion rocked his own house, damaging it, perhaps beyond repair,and though he was injured he rushed down the street to the rest home because he knew there were elderly and disabled people there would not be able to escape on their own.  Hurt and bleeding, he shrugged off offers of help so that he could help others.

 It’s the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine.

Now that we know one of the Boston bombers is dead and the other is in custody we are left to just sit around and wonder why on earth they would do this.

Why would a young man, who had wanted to become a citizen and had achieved that goal not even a year ago, plant a bomb in the middle of other citizens?

Was he lead astray by a radical older brother?

And if so,  what made that older brother so radical?

And why one earth would they do this?

 It’s the end of the world as we know it…

And then, out of the blue, someone sent me a picture with a news article attached—a Boston police officer, dressed in tactical gear, looking like someone who had just stepped out of an action movie is seen standing in front of a house, holding a gallon of milk in each hand.

Turns out, that during the lockdown, a family with young children were out of milk…  and he went and got them some!

 It’s the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine.

It seems that every time the darkness tried to step in and block my view of the world, the light broke through and showed me where God was still working…

I’d glance at something and see something terrible and I’d say, Dear Lord, have mercy on us

…and when I’d look closer I’d see that the Lord already was showing us mercy.

I’d hear about something that left me feeling hopeless and helpless and I’d say, Dear Lord, help us

…and then I’d look closer and see that the Lord was already helping us.

When Jesus called us to be his followers he never told us that all the terrible, awful things of this world would go away.

In fact, he warned us that by following him we would be in direct opposition to this world and that that would put us in a dangerous position.

Being believers doesn’t protect us from the “ordeals” of this world—I always thought Revelation majorly understates things when it says the believers in their white robes were the ones who came through the “great ordeal”…

But the reality is, we aren’t immune to it just because we have Jesus in our hearts—in fact, as believers, the same Jesus who suffered a great deal for us, expects us to be willing to go into those places of suffering in our world and stand with those who are there—
to feel the earth shake beneath our feet,
to feel the windows shatter and the buildings rattle all around us,
to kneel in neighborly love beside a broken stranger,
to carry the weak and vulnerable to safety…

Jesus expects us to be where tear are shed, where pain is known, where struggles are of life and death because those are the places that he goes to…

Not in retaliation,
not in anger,
not in vengeance,
but as the Lamb…

The very lamb that we see at the center of the throne when we read the Book of Revelation—

And that same, gentle, unblemished, sacrificial lamb is also our shepherd—guiding us to a place where we won’t know pain and suffering any longer.

The scorching heat of bombs won’t find us in that place where the Good shepherd is leading us…
The sun won’t beat down upon the homeless who have lost all they possess in that place where the Good Shepherd is leading us…
The thirst and hunger of those forced to go without basic necessities will be satisfied in that place where the Good Shepherd is leading us…

But for now we are here in this place… and the Lamb is already our King—and although we may not be delivered from the trials and ordeals of this world, we know that the reason we help each other, soothe each other, lift each other up, is because we trust that the Good Shepherd will do the same for us.

So maybe things are crazy in this world.

Who knows… maybe R.E.M. is right… maybe after this week it really is the end of the world as we know it… but you know what?  I feel fine.

I feel fine because I know the Lamb is my Shepherd.

I feel fine because I know that whatever shall pass in this world is but a fleeting thing and that the Shepherd himself will quench my thirst, satisfy my hunger, shade me from the sun, and protect me from the scorching heat.

I feel fine because I know that whatever tears I must shed in this world, doing what Christ has given me to do, and suffering with the suffering souls of this world will one day be dried by the Lamb himself.

I feel fine because when I look around even in the darkest moment I see the evidence of Christ’s work all around me, even in the swirling chaos, and I know that the Shepherd is guiding us even now.

I feel fine because I know that when this ordeal is over there will be rest in Jesus Christ.

Don’t ever, ever, let the terrible, awful things of this world distract you from seeing the beauty of the Shepherd guiding us through even these times of trial.

And when things are the darkest, look for the light that is always shining in this world through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Amen.

(Song lyrics:  It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, recorded by R.E.M., 1987)

Resources that helped me plan for this sermon:

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3 thoughts on “…And I Feel Fine

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