Our hearts ache for the victims of the Boston bombings.
No words can describe such an act of barbarous cruelty. No language can express the sympathy we feel for those suffering its consequences. Our mouths are, quite paradoxically, gaping and speechless.
Yet pastors need to find words. Sunday is coming and the pastor will need to have something to say. Some will choose to address the Boston bombings directly. Others will simply mention the disaster in passing. Whatever path is chosen, pastors will wrestle with the question: what can I preach?
1. We can preach that even when hell breaks out on earth, God reigns in heaven and earth.
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.“ (Psalm 2:1-4. Cf Psalm 96:10, Matthew 28:18)
2. We can preach that God comforts those who mourn.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4. Cf Psalm 147:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
3. We can preach that human beings have a profoundly sinful nature.
“Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5. Cf Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-18)
4. We can preach that everyone needs to repent, not just terrorists.
“Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5. Cf Acts 3:19, 1 John 1:8-9)
5. We can preach that only God can keep us ultimately safe.
“God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3. Cf Psalm 146:3, Romans 8:31-39)
6. We can preach that Jesus’ life was violently taken in an act of human barbarism, but it was part of God’s plan.
“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:23-24, Cf Isaiah 53:1-6)
7. We can preach that God will one day renew and remake this fallen, sin-sick world.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1, 4. Cf Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:54)